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December 06, 2010

The Case of Ethics

The case of ethical behavior is something that is of paramount importance. Managers and managers to be need to be very careful about their dealings and should definitely get a name for themselves as ethical managers. What is ethics? Three simple definitions: Ethics is the art of correct behavior. But what is correct or not is left to the conscience and the mind of the person doing the task. The second definition too is simple. Ethics is something that bothers you. If you are pausing for a second and thinking whether what you are doing is ethical or not - most probably what you are doing is unethical. The third definition is the best. Whenever you are in doubts whether what you are doing is ethical or not pause for a second and ask yourself "would my mother approve of what I am doing?" If the answer for that question is yes then what you are doing is ethical and if the answer is no then what you are doing is unethical.

CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology) is an International centre situated in Hyderabad, India. It is famous for doing DNA finger printing. It is a centre that aids the police departments in cases where spit or saliva is available but finger print is not available. Another area where CCMB does yeomen service to the society is in the field of paternity testing. The father’s claim for paternity of a child can be tested scientifically.

On the eventful day the senior scientist at CCMB had a family who visited him. The father told a very strange story. He told the Doctor that he suspected that is second son is his son but not the first. He requested the doctor to do the test and tell him whether his second son was his own.

The doctor took the blood samples of the father, mother and both the children. The results came out very interestingly. The first son was the son of the father but not the second. What is that the doctors can tell the family?

This is where the ethical problem comes in. Is he supposed to tell the truth? But why should the doctor play the god? But at the same time should the truth be told at all? After all the father asked about the first son and not his second son. But is telling what is only asked, the duty of the doctors? If that is the case what about the Hippocratic truth that all doctors take which tells them that some truths even if they are bitter and not very palatable have to be told.

The doctor discussed the perplex issue with a priest, an atheist, a mullah and a Christian father. Everyone had some solution but that those were not satisfactory. Finally that night as he was tossing in his bed his wife advised him to do what his conscience tells him to do.

On the day of the result the entire family assembled in front of the doctor. The doctor looked straight at the father and said “your first son is your son" and he waited with baited breath. He was expecting the second question which was "and what about my second son?" But the question never came and the entire family walked out of the doctor's office happily. The doctor's wife asked him that night "are you happy with what you did?" For which the doctor replied “I am not but I saved the family on this particular day. I was waiting for the second question. If that dreaded question was asked I would have had to answer but the question never came"

That in a nut shell is the case of ethics for you. It is where there is no correct answer or solution. What is correct depends on the situation and the criticality.

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