Ethics and the Professions Summer 1998

Third Examination: Questions

[Be sure you are familiar with the format and ground rules for this exam.]

Questions will be referred to by their "names," listed to their left.

C-TOBR Under what circumstances does Judge Tobriner think professionals ought to disclose confidential communication? When is it permissible, and when is it morally obligatory, for a professional to disclose confidential information? Critically discuss.
C-CLAR Explain Justice Clark's objections to the majority view in Tarasoff. Are these objections strong enough to convince you that psychological counselors are not morally bound to report credible information that their client intends to assault someone? To what extent are these arguments applicable to confidential information disclosed by clients to professionals other than psychological counselors? Explain your answer in detail.
C-BOK Sissela Bok offers four arguments (which she calls "premises") for a duty of confidentiality between client and a professional. Briefly explain each of these arguments. In light of these arguments, under what circumstances, if any, may a professional divulge information provided to him or her? Critically discuss.
C-PARE What is W. A. Parent's definition of privacy? Explain other accounts of privacy and how they differ. Which seems best to you? Why? Critically discuss.
J-GENR Some think that being generous is inconsistent with being just. Why would someone think this? What account of justice does such a position presuppose? Is this account of justice correct? Why or why not?
J-DESE Explain the difference between what Lee calls the "strict desert" account of justice and what he calls the "sufficient desert" account. Which of these is more plausible as an account of what justice really is? Critically discuss.
J-ARI4 Aristotle wrote: "The just, therefore, involves at least four terms; for the persons for whom it is in fact just are two, and the things in which it is manifested, the objects distributed, are two. And the same equality will exist between the persons and between the things concerned ..." Carefully explain this remark. Critically discuss.
J-ARIM Aristotle wrote: "... awards should be `according to merit'; for all men agree that what is just in distribution must be according to merit in some sense, though they do not all specify the same sort of merit ..." Carefully explain this remark. Critically discuss.
J-MILL John Stuart Mill mentions several common conceptions of justice. Explain these and give examples of actions that would be just or unjust according to these conceptions.
J-FAIT John Stuart Mill wrote "it is ... unjust to break faith with anyone." Explain what sorts of situations Mill had in mind as "breaking faith." Does he seem right about this? Critically discuss.
J-PURE What is "pure procedural justice?" How does it differ from perfect and imperfect procedural justice? Give examples of each. Under what circumstances is each appropriate? Critically discuss.
B-BRIB What is bribery? Is it wrong to act from a bribe? Is it wrong to accept bribes? Is it wrong to offer bribes? In each case explain why or why not, and if it is wrong in some circumstances but not others, explain.
B-B&E What is bribery? What is extortion? What is the difference between the two? Is it wrong to offer bribes? Is it wrong to accept bribes? Is it wrong to act according to a bribe? Is it wrong to accept a bribe and then not act according to it? Is it wrong to extort from another? Is it wrong to give into extortion? In each case explain why or why not, and if it is wrong in some circumstances but not others, explain.
B-COI What is it to have a conflict of interest? Is it always morally wrong to have a conflict of interest? Is it always morally wrong to conceal a conflict of interest? Critically discuss.
W-KIND What is "whistle blowing?" What different kinds of whistle blowing are there? What considerations, according to Gene James, should enter into a decision of whether to blow the whistle? Critically discuss.
W-BOK What reasons does Sissela Bok see for choosing open whistleblowing over anonymous whistleblowing? What reasons does she see for going with anonymous whistleblowing? What "two things" does Bok feel the potential whistleblower should "make sure" of before blowing the whistle? Critically discuss.
W-DEG Under what conditions, according to Richard T. DeGeorge, is it morally permissible for an engineer to "go public with information about the safety of a product?" Under what conditions, according to DeGeorge, is it morally obligatory for an engineer to go public with such information? Explore the objections Gene G. James (in "In Defense of Whistle Blowing") raises to DeGeorge's analysis. Critically discuss.
CS-SAFSafeguard, Inc.'s engineers prepared plans and specifications for machinery to be used in manufacturing. Midland Tubing was hired to produce the equipment. Midland's engineers thought Safeguard's design faulty and that the equipment might be dangerous. They reported this to Midland's officials who so informed Safeguard. After a review, Safeguard replied that their engineers thought the design was satisfactory and told Midland to go ahead with production. What should Midland's engineers do? Why?
CS-HIR You own a company and you need to hire an engineer. Three people apply for the job, two whites and a black. They are all certified, but the black has the most impressive credentials. He comes from a superior school, has stronger letters of recommendation, and longer experience in the field.) Suppose you hire one of the whites instead. Have you done anything wrong? Discuss this question in light of accounts of theories of morality, justice and rights. Would it make any difference if "white" and "black" were reversed in the above description? Would it make any difference if the question were admission to a private law school or a fraternity? Would it make any moral difference if the question were one of hiring or admission to some public institution (such as a state school or a federal agency)? Discuss.
CS-BOM Suppose you are the lawyer for a person charged with bombing a federal building, a bomb attack that left many people, including young children, dead. You explain to your client that for you to defend him well he needs to tell you a lot of information about his background, his relationships with various people, his whereabouts, and more. You explain that you will keep this material confidential. In the course of your private discussions he tells you of an unapprehended accomplice. He also tells you that they had plans to bomb a second federal building, one in Madison, Wisconsin. What do you do with this information? Why? Critically discuss.
CS-CC You are the editor of the Clinton Courier. You receive a visit from Albert Bates and a Mrs. Charles Douglas III. The day before, Mr. Bates' wife had been arrested at a local department store for shoplifting $5.26 worth of goods. She had her four-year-old son with her. At her trial she claimed she had not taken the goods and that her son had probably put them in the shopping bag while she was looking at something else. However, a store detective testified that he had seen her take the items. As a warning to other shoplifters at Christmas time, the judge sentenced Mrs. Bates to a week in jail instead of the usual $100 fine. Mrs. Douglas tells you that Mrs. Bates had been her maid for several years after immigrating to this country, was completely honest, and would not do such a thing. She is staying with Mr. Bates to take care of the children while Mrs. Bates is in jail. Mr. Bates asks you not to print any story about Mrs. Bates' conviction or at least to delete her name. If her name appears, their two young children will be subjected to harassment by other children; Mrs. Bates will not be able to face their neighbors, so they will have to sell their recently purchased home and move to another neighborhood. What should you ethically do? Critically discuss.
CS-AL A reader wrote the following letter to Ann Landers (Arkansas Gazette, Friday, August 15, 1986 p.3B):

Dear Ann: I am six months pregnant. Twelve days after my pregnancy was confirmed I began to receive catalogues that sold maternity needs. Although I was not sure how I got on these lists I really didn't mind.

Several weeks ago we began getting phone calls in the evening, as late as 10:15. They were from every baby service imaginable.

The other morning I got a call from a diaper service at 6:45 a.m. because they wanted to reach me "before I left for work."

My husband and I finally decided to ask the last few callers where they got our number. Most were evasive, but one firm admitted that they had bought our address and phone number from my doctor. When I started asking around to see if other women had similar experience I found out they had. Isn't this unethical? Shouldn't the doctor's office ask permission before they give out personal information on a patient?

I am afraid to discuss this with my obstetrician for fear of alienating him before my baby is born. I desperately need his good will.

The irony is that if I want to reach my doctor in an emergency I must go through his answering service because his home phone isn't published. Mine isn't either, but his office sold it to dozens of hucksters. What should I do?

- Furious in Chicago

Please offer "Furious in Chicago" the answer to her question of whether this behavior is ethical. Critically discuss.

CS-DD A government inspector from the Department of Defense comes to visit Arkansas Instruments, which is manufacturing microchips for military satellites. The inspector is supposed to check the conditions at the plant to make sure they are up to government regulations (safety, security, whatever). The plant manager gives the inspector a laptop computer, saying "hey, we've upgraded to some new equipment and this would just go to waste here, so I thought maybe you could use it. Oh, and by the way, I sure hope the inspection goes well." Is this a case of bribery? Of extortion? Of creating a confliction of interest? None of the above? Explain. (Be sure to define terms.) How could the scenario be minimally changed to make it something else (from this list)?
CS-KIK A County Engineer in Virginia demanded a 25% kickback in secret payments for highway work contracts he issued. In 1967 he made such an offer to Allan Kammerer, a 32-year-old civil engineer who was vice president of a young and struggling consulting firm greatly in need of the work. Kammerer discussed the offer with others in the firm, who told him it was his decision to make. Finally Kammerer agreed to the deal, citing as a main reason his concern for getting sufficient work to retain his current employees. Did Kammerer do the (morally) right thing? Defend your answer.
CS-ARC Adams, an engineer who does substantial work for architects, was approached by an architect, Bergman, to contribute to the political campaign of Collins, a key state candidate in Arkansas. Collins had stated that if elected, she would see to it that architectural (and hence supporting engineering) services for the state would be done by Arkansas-based firms. That is to say, work would not be given to out-of-state firms. Bergman, together with other architects, planned to contribute to Collins' campaign. Adams was also requested by Bergman to solicit funds from other consulting engineers engaged in similar engineering design-for-architects practice. What should Adams do? What ethical issues, if any, are involved here. Discuss.
CS-WEL For several years George Hardy has represented several welfare recipients. He has become concerned about the injustices that he sees they are subject to. One day a representative of the Justice for Welfare Recipients (JWR) organization approaches him. They would like to hire him to represent test cases for welfare reform. JWR would bring him clients and pay for their representation, but he must press only the issues JWR wants raised. As the representative explains, if he raises various issues that are relevant to the particular client, then the courts will avoid the central issue they want decided. Although some particular clients are likely to suffer, in the long run more welfare recipients will benefit, and will do so sooner, by this tactic. If George agrees, he will do more for welfare recipients than he can by the way he has been practicing. Would it be ethical for George to agree to take such cases? Why or why not? Critically discuss.
CS-COM Imagine you work at a company which supplies computers to its employees for use at their desks. The company encourages employees to get comfortable with personal computers. For example, you are told at your initiation into the company that you can play games on them during your lunch hour. Is it morally permissible for you to do some personal finances and letters on a company owned machine at your desk during working hours? What about using the machine to write letters or address envelopes for a small consulting business you operate on the side? Consider defenses and criticisms of affirmative and negative answers. Critically discuss. Discuss these questions, taking account of various ethical theories and principles, and with an eye toward reaching an optimal answer.
CS-HOW A couple of years ago George Howard, a lawyer, handled a suit that struck down racial and sexual discriminatory practices of a local corporation. He is also vice president of a local environmental organization. The corporation's factory is now being forced to close due to new local regulations on pollution. The local black organization, which considers him its lawyer, wishes to join the corporation's management in attacking the local regulations on pollution so that the factory can remain open. George would represent the blacks who obtained jobs as a result of his earlier case. The suit would probably be opposed by the environmental organization to which he belongs. Would it be ethical for George to take the case? Why or why not? Would there be a conflict of interest? Would it be unethical for George to refuse the case? Why or why not?
CS-LOC During 1972 and 1973 the President of Lockheed, A. Carl Kotchian, authorized secret payments totaling around $12 million beyond a contract to representatives of Japan's Prime Minister Tanaka. Later revelations of these payments helped lead to the resignation of Tanaka and also to new laws in the United States forbidding payments such as these. Kotchian believed at that time that it was the only way to assure sales of Lockheed's TriStar airplanes in a much needed market. In explaining his actions, Kotchian cited the following: (1) There was no doubt in his mind that the only way to make the sales was to make the payments. (2) No U.S. law at the time forbade the payments. (3) The payments were financially worthwhile, for they totaled only 3% of an expected $430 million income for Lockheed. (4) The sales would prevent Lockheed layoffs, provide new jobs, and thereby benefit workers' families and their communities as well as the stockholders. (5) He himself did not personally initiate any of the payments, which were all requested by Japanese negotiators. (6) In order to give the TriStar a chance to prove itself in Japan, he felt he had to "follow the functioning system" of Japan. That is, he viewed the secretive payments as the accepted practice in Japan's government circles for this type of sale. Develop the strongest moral argument you can think of in favor of Kotchian's actions. Develop the strongest argument you can against his actions. Indicate which argument you find more compelling. Explain why and why you disagree with the opposing view.

Richard Lee,, last modified: 26 June 1998