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<Stephen Wiley>
posted
TWO ETHICAL QUESTIONS
Q1: If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis; would you recommend that she have an abortion?

> > Read the next question before scrolling down to the answer of this one.

Q2: It is time to elect the world leader, and your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three leading candidates:

> > > Candidate A Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologers. He's had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to10 martinis a day.

> > > Candidate B He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whisky every evening.

> > > Candidate C He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn't had any extramarital affairs.

Which of these candidates would be your choice? Decide first, then scroll down for the answer.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt
> > > Candidate B is Winston Churchill
> > > Candidate C is Adolph Hitler

Answer to the abortion question - if you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.
 
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<Scott Cullen>
posted
Reply to post by Stephen Wiley, on September 29, 1999 at 11:31:55:

An interesting exercise. It raises some interesting questions.

RE 1: LOTS of questions. First is abortion an ethical choice at all, for the society as a whole or for you or the woman specifically? We can't address the whole Roe V. Wade and Choice vs Right to Life debate here but it's a big issue. Next, if it is OK for the society and for you but not for the woman do you have the right to influence her choice? Do you have a duty to? Are you acting for her alleged benefit or her living children's or the unborn's or society's? Assume it's OK for everybody but the unborn, who has no abilty to understand or say if it's OK or not. What are the surrounding facts? Are the children well cared for or neglected? Is her disease treatable or will she die? If she dies what happens to all the children including the unborn? If she lives will the burden of an additional child tip the scales to or further into neglect? Assume you know the unborn will be Beethoven... or Einstein... or Mother Theresa. And you know that there is no likely adoption for this child because of known factors includinhg an inheirited disease and the burden of this child will cause severe hardship and neglect for the others. Since you know the future you also know that becasue of the additional child who pops out of the womb playing the piano and gets all Mom's attention, of the 8 others 2 die, 4 become prostitutes and 2 serial killers. Is that OK because the world now has Beethoven? Back to a basic ethical question does a known end justify any means?

No answers for you just many more questions.

RE: 2. What are the other facts? In the real world if we don't have any we must go with what we know and deal with the outcome. If our ethics are blind maybe they obscure other facts and we wind up with Hitler. If we looked for other facts would we see that Roosevelt performed well in his jobs and had a galvanizing personality, the kind of leader a depression racked country needed? Maybe that's the same reason the Germans rallied to Hitler. What did they miss? The violence, the hate, the scapegoating? They say he performed his jobs well: Three rooms a day. Two coats! (He was a house painter after WWI). Leadership was the same thing the King saw in Churchill when he asked him to form a war cabinet (he was not elected as I recall).

One of the key exercises we use in ethical case studies at the ASCA Academy is focused on getting all the facts and avoiding preconceived notions.
 
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<Wayne Cahilly>
posted
Reply to post by Stephen Wiley, on September 29, 1999 at 11:31:55:

Ah Situation Ethics.....

Any person or people will evaluate the questions you have posed from a position squarely atop their own foundational idiology. Those who waffle on questions such as these have not examined, and come to grips with, their own idiological positions and therefore have difficulty in conducting comparitive examinations of the foundational idiology of others.

I appreciate that we should gather the facts as they can be known, escape our own bias, and conduct our work free of judgemental constraints. However, we are strongly affected by complexed associations that function below the conscience level and that color our view in spite of our selves.

Einstein put it simply: "the phylosophy to which you adhere determins what you see". Now, here is an exercise; next time you see a blue and white sign by the side of the road with a picture on it to indicate that a picnic area is just ahead, think about what that picture actually shows. You may never be able to see one simply as a picnic area sign again.

Wayne *ducking and running*
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Wayne Cahilly, on September 29, 1999 at 11:31:55:

Question like abortion and euthanasia, lower thresholds like contraception, even lower threshholds like public vs. private education and prayer in schools are thorny. And then there are things like gender preference, polygamous marriage and on and on.

But within a culture, like ours, and even across many cultures there are some pretty widely accepted basics: tell the truth, don't hurt people, don't steal, be fair, "do the right thing." Most of our laws reflect this and so do most of our religious beliefs.

So what we do in our businesses and professional practices really should not be that thorny to sort out ethically. Remember the basics. If you're constantly in a quandry then Wayne's observation is pretty good: maybe you "have not examined, and come to grips with, your own idiological positions and therefore have difficulty in conducting comparitive examinations of the foundational idiology of others." Time to get back to basics. If you struggle with particular types of jobs or assignments, don't take them. Often we can trust our instincts... if it doesn't feel right it's probably not.
 
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<Stephen Wiley>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on September 30, 1999 at 16:25:44:

Wayne & Scott,

The questions you have responded to on this particular post, were taken from and e-mail I had recieved earlier that day.

My mistake came in not applying quotations.

My purpose for posting, was to incite further discussion concerning ethics. And as you say Wayne "'Ahh...Situation Ethics". Most of the circumstances surrounding tree removal between interested and uninterested parties becomes 'situational'. We can apply the facts (If indeed we have been hired with the latitude to do so) and voice an opinion usually based upon visual assessment. However, the resulting dialogue can become situational unless the consultant approches with "Functional or Perfomance Ethics"

So what are the aspects of "Situational Ethics" that are beneficial in our performance.

Steve
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Stephen Wiley, on September 30, 1999 at 17:11:02:

I don't think you made any mistakes in presentation... you started a good discussion.

Not entirely sure of the meaning of these terms... situational, funtional, performance.

If you have a personal belief system, those ethics may set constraints for you in what kinds of assignments you take or the recommendations you make. If you have signed on the a professional set of ethics like ASCA's they will guide your actions as well.

If you are a 'professional' and are retained as one - at least as an arborist, not a therapist or moralist - you should be looking at facts. "This tree is X big and in Y condition and is likely to have Z performance over time. It will cost $A to remove and $B per year to keep. It provides benefits Q and liabilities R." Assuming both removal and preservation are legal and within the rights of the parties I would not understand your professional role to be advocating or opposing either position. If asked for your own preference "what if it was in your yard?" of course you could describe your preference. It might well be unethical for you to take sides. It would be unethical to falsify facts for either party.. or obscure facts even if it was to advance a position you believed in. You do your job well, you apply your expertise, you tell the truth.

While you personally may feel swimming pools and tennis courts should not be built if trees have to be removed - and you're entitled to that view - you should keep advocacy of that belief (except perhaps as an aside if it does not abuse process or fairness) out of you professional practice. If your belief is so strong that you cannot keep it out of the process that's OK too but then your role in life should be as an advocate not an impartial professional.

If someone wnats to hire you as an advocate tha's what they should get, with passion. If someone wants to hire you as an impartial, independent, objective expert then taht's what they should get, also with passion (for the facts, observers are supposed to be 'dispassionate"). The two may be mutually exclusive.

I would think a professional must regard trees as assets or resources to be managed and protected and also used. That's the essence of conservation... it's not the same as inflexible preservation (reference Jim Ingram, personal communication, 1998). Within legal frameworks people have rights to make decisions about resources, decisons which may differ from the preferences of others. Experts, professionals help guide peoples' decisions with facts and informed opinions, which are not the same as beliefs. Facts and rights (private property and public resource rights as they interact) will vary greatly by situation. So consideration of them must by definition be situational. I'm not sure that means your ethics become situational.

I'm not sure if these examples address your real questions, but that's my two cents. You're up Wayne... and anybody else.
 
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<Julian Dunster>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on October 02, 1999 at 07:58:01:

Even though, to an extent, I agree with the notion that

"While you personally may feel swimming pools and tennis courts should not be built if trees have to be removed - and you're entitled to that view - you should keep advocacy of that belief (except perhaps as an aside if it does not abuse process or fairness) out of you professional practice. If your belief is so strong that you cannot keep it out of the process that's OK too but then your role in life should be as an advocate not an impartial professional."

I also think that a profesional can, perhaps even, should, make a point of telling the client the implications of sertain actions. If you build the tennis court here you will lose this tree. Or, you can suggest options like, build in another location, scrap the tennis court, sacrifice the tree and plant another etc. In many situations our duty as professionals is to provide the client with "good" advice. I see no reason why we should not extend this to dealing with lawyers. Many do not have the technical expertise required to deal with tree related issues, but neither do we have the legal expertise they have. The trick is to work together. Undoubtedly, situations will arise when we would be uncomfortable, and at that point you need to decide, do I back out and risk the wrath of the client? or do I stay in and abrogate my own code of professional ethics, as well as any others prescribed by my membership in professional groups such as ASCA.

There are many fine lines to walk along in professional life, and I doubt that anyone ever manages to be always right. The seasoned professional learns by experience, and hopefully, learns by walking the fine lines and deciding when it is or is not acceptable to be on one side or the other.

Julian
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Julian Dunster, on October 02, 1999 at 12:26:19:

"I also think that a profesional can, perhaps even, should, make a point of telling the client the implications of sertain actions."

Yes, absolutely. I did not mean to exclude such advice from ethical practice. But that's quite different from saying "you may not cut this tree down, it's against my beleifs and I'll put a hex on you if you do. Honestly, cutting down this pretty tree just so you can chase a yellow ball around, go do it in the KMart parking lot for gosh sakes."

My response to Stephen was assuming a homeowner type situation. I don't know if the expert has quite so much latitude in expressing opinions in a litigation setting. Certainly the expert must be much more careful about allowing personal beliefs to color the advice given or the selection of facts or the discussion of the merits of particular positions. Not to say that beliefs are not inherent in the experts understanding and view of situations, just that they should not endanger fairness or independent and objective opinion.
 
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<Stephen Wiley>
posted
Reply to post by Scott, on October 02, 1999 at 07:58:01:

>"I don't think you made any mistakes in presentation... you started a good discussion."

Scott,

My mistake was in not using quotations around the questions I had copied, not the discussion.

I am enjoying and hopefully learning from the discussion. That is why I proposed the terms: Functional Ethics, Performance Ethics, just as "Duck and Run" labeled "Situational Ethics", as you stated earlier "Professional Ethics".

Julian, has pointed out a very strong point that I believe needs further development concerning advising lawyer's with 'Known'(arborist) case law pertinent to current case matters. Is it unethical? Are we practicing Law? My response to both is NO. I believe were hired to present as MUCH KNOWN FACTS relevant to the case, including assiting the lawyer in finding case law through whatever means we have available.

Just a little of my two cents worth for now.

Steve
 
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<Scott>
posted
Reply to post by Stephen Wiley, on October 02, 1999 at 12:26:19:

I have no definitive information on the ethical aspects of advising an attorney, beyond the specific opinion which was requested.

I have a few observations about some practicalities. I've noticed that attorneys may be reluctant to ask for such input because they already have a theory, or don't want to hear anything that might conflict with what they want to present. They may not ask because they don't know enough to ask... in that event they might welcome informed input. I understand that attorneys must be very careful not to influence or suggest an opinion to an expert. They often want the expert to work with complete independence and they don't want any correspondence - like their review of your draft report - that will indicate any such interference. (I think this is more than a "prevent discovery" issue.) It may well be that the expert role and the litigation consultant role are largely, or best exclusive. I suspect that the value of many tree value cases does not warrant such expense. I suspect that tree fatality cases would easily support the expense.
 
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