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The Relationship Between Law And Ethics Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1761 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The law is a system of rules enforced by a number of government bodies. The law is based on standards and moral codes which are sets of rules or principles governing a community based on a set of rules or ideals that define what constitutes correct behaviour within that community such as the golden rule, the Ten Commandments and the noble eightfold path of Buddhism etc, which allow human beings to peacefully coexist once these codes are followed. Natural laws are the law that are naturally knowable by all human beings and fundamental to human nature, and is comprised of the universal moral principles that existed through human reasoning without reference to manmade law which is based on history and subject to continuous change to cover new crimes such as cybercrime.


”A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon the world” -Albert Camus

The word ethics is taken from the Greek word ethos, which means “character,” and from the Latin word mores, which means “customs.” Aristotle was one of the first philosophers to study ethics. To him, ethics comprised of more than a moral, religious, or legal concept. He believed that the most important element in ethical behaviour is knowledge that actions are accomplished for the betterment of the common good. He asked whether actions performed by individuals or groups are good both for an individual or a group and for society. ‘To determine what is ethically good for the individual and for society’, Aristotle said, ”it is necessary to possess three virtues of practical wisdom: temperance, courage, and justice”

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The need to control, regulates, and legislate ethical conduct in society has ancient roots. For example, one of the earliest law codes recorded the code of Hammurabi and modern laws share certain features in their ethical codes, such as forbidding murder, bodily injury, and attacks on personal honour and reputation. They also attempt to suppress and to impose penalties derived from these standards. The code of Hammurabi contains a list of crimes and their various punishments; it followed the basic ‘eye for an eye’ theory of punishment to make the punishment fit the crime, as well as settlements for common disputes and guidelines for citizens’ conduct.

The laws are based on ethical principles. You can’t have an ethical society and law without an underlying ethical basis, or the laws would be ignored. Often laws and the courts are required to resolve strong ethical dilemmas in society, as in the controversial issues of abortion.

As seen in the case

Attorney General v. X in which a 14 year old girl who had been raped by a neighbour and had become pregnant and threatened to commit suicide if not granted an abortion Hearing that X planned to have an abortion, the Attorney General. Harold Whelehan sought an injunction under Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland preventing her. The injunction was granted by Mr Justice Costello in the High Court.

The High Court injunction was appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned it by a majority of three to two. The majority opinion held that a woman had a right to an abortion under Article 40.3.3 if there was “a real and substantial risk” to her life. This right did not exist if there was a risk to her health but not her life; however it did exist if the risk was the possibility of suicide.

X had a miscarriage shortly after the judgement before an abortion could be carried out.

‘The case resulted in no fewer than three proposed constitutional amendments on the issue of abortion, referenda for which were held on 25 November 1992:

Twelfth Amendment – the so-called substantive issue. Proposed that the prohibition on abortions would apply even in cases where the mother was suicidal

Thirteenth Amendment- specified that the prohibition on abortion would not limit the freedom of pregnant women to travel out of the country

Fourteenth Amendment – specified that the prohibition of abortion would not limit the right to distribute information about abortion services in foreign countries

The thirteenth and fourteenth amendments were ratified but the twelfth was rejected.’

Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland unless it is preformed to protect the woman’s life. Abortion is a very controversial subject in the rights and wrongs of terminating a pregnancy before childbirth. On the topic of abortion there are two opposing sides to the argument the pro-life group who believe that the foetus is a human being and has the right to live from the moment of conception. The pro choice group believes that abortion should be legal in certain circumstances. And that a woman should have control over what happens to her own body. There is further debate over if the foetus can perceive pain and if so it signifies that the foetus is aware, awareness being a trait of a living organism therefore abortion is seen as murder. Abortion activists claim that the foetus cannot feel pain until at least twenty weeks old this is the same viewpoint that the majority of the scientific community agree with.

Stem cell controversy

Stem cells are the cells found in all multi-cellular organisms they are valuable as they have the ability to be changed into any other type of cell and this offers the development of medical treatments for medical conditions that currently have no treatment,

Professional ethics

”If ethics are poor at the top, that behaviour is copied down through the organization”

Robert Noyce, inventor of the silicon chip

Business ethics is the behaviour that a business uses in its daily dealings with the world. The ethics of a particular business can vary greatly depending upon the situation. They apply not only to how the business interacts with the world at large, but also to their one-on-one dealings with a single client. The ethical obligation of all professionals is to do no harm to their clients by breaking Confidentiality, to prevent exploitation of the client and preserve the integrity of the profession. This is not only of to benefit of the client but to the benefit of those belonging to the profession. It is incredibly difficult for those whom are not part of the profession to monitor practice, leaving the opportunity that the code of practice may be self serving. This is because the nature of professions is that they have almost a complete monopoly on a particular area of knowledge. The main purpose of business is to make a profit for its shareholders by maximizing their investments, as the businesses main purpose it is not viewed as unethical for a company to only care about profits and growth.

Although the law does influence the behaviour of some professions, many ethical issues cannot be settled by the courts. The ethics of a particular act is many times determined independently of the legality of the conduct. In fact, conclusive answers cannot always be given for many ethical issues because there are no enforceable standards or reliable theories for resolving ethical conflicts. Many global businesses, including most of the major brands that the public use, can be seen not to think too highly of good business ethics. Many major brands have been fined millions for breaking ethical business laws. Money is the major deciding factor. If a company does not follow to business ethics and breaks the law, they often incur large fines. Many companies have broken competition and environmental laws and received fines worth millions, however the larger a company becomes the easier it becomes to ignore these laws when the profits outweighs the fines applied. Money and profits blind companies to their poor business ethics. An example of business that was not ethically responsible is Pfizer in 2004 Pfizer had to pay $2.3 billion to settle civil and criminal charges for promoting drugs for conditions they had not yet being approved for and giving doctors incentive to encourage them to prescribe them. Another business with poor ethics is the tobacco industry. It is not possible to a company to ethically responsible when it sells products that are known to harm the health and wellbeing of others.

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Many companies have moved in the direction of becoming a more socially responsible and ethical company. As part of this some of the steps to doing so include forming internal polices for the conduct of employees forming a corporate ethics codes. More and more today companies are requiring employees to attend business conduct seminars to discuss company policies, case studies, and legal requirements. As for society we can be ethical and socially responsible by supporting companies that are making steps in the right direction. This would then cause other companies to be forced to making steps into the right direction and become ethical and socially responsible.

Computer Ethics

With technology advancing faster than the law can keep up with, new ethical guidelines are put in place to keep order in this new environment.

The ten commandments of computer ethics

”Thou shall not use a computer to harm other people.

Thou shall not interfere with other people’s computer work.

Thou shall not snoop around in other people’s computer files.

Thou shall not use a computer to steal.

Thou shall not use a computer to bear false witness.

Thou shall not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid.

Thou shall not use other people’s computer resources without authorization or proper compensation.

Thou shall not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.

Thou shall think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.

Thou shall always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans”

Computer fraud is the dishonest misrepresentation of fact intended to let another to do or refrain from doing something which causes loss

Medical ethics

Medical ethics is the study of moral values and judgments as they apply to medicine. Those in the health care profession must swear the Hippocratic Oath

This is a legal obligation for all health care professionals who have sworn the Hippocratic Oath.


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