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Professionals not at Fault because of Malpractice

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Why is it that the people seem to blindly accept every concept or idea shared by a professional? Could it be that this trust or loyalty to the professional’s word is traced to the fact that professionals are expected to be and act just? In the article, “The Excuses that Make Professional Ethics Irrelevant”, Banks McDowell goes through some examples of why professionals are not to blame for acting unethically. Rather, he says that unethical conduct by professionals is more often due to bad institutional structures than bad people. In response to McDowell’s point of view, I strongly disagree that professionals are not to be blamed for their poor unethical conduct because it is expected from the clients for them to be ethical, they would not want it to happen to themselves, and what would be the benefit of just passing around the fault?

McDowell says, “We seem to have produced in professionals a fair amount of anxiety and guilt without the inner strength or institutional support that leads to personal or systematic change which would relieve the gulf between ideal and practice”. What he is trying to say here is that the people have created a type of judging system on professionals that quickly catches an unethical malpractice if it was to occur. For example, if a doctor was to give a dose of medicine to a patient that would allow the patient to feel better but also in the long run develop a tumor or something, the doctor is to blame. Thus, creating a sense that professionals having a sense of ‘being on their toes’ feeling. Instead, McDowell is trying to bring attention to the matter of the bad institutional structures being the cause of so many professionals acting unethically.

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As a client, you expect the professional to act and take actions to satisfy the client’s beliefs and rights. McDowell provides four types of excuses that professionals tend to use. The excuse, the irresistible pressure, can be summarized as the professional acting the way that he did because he was ordered to do so. For example, a manager is instructed by the district manager to let go of an employee without considering the financial state of that employee. In a reading from class, “Apple vs. FBI One Year Later: Still Stuck in Limbo”, Apple was put into a tough decision of creating a backdoor program into their iPhone devices all because the FBI was trying to access a terrorist’s phone. The FBI made it clear that this was for stopping potential terrorist attacks in the future. This was the battle over privacy and security for Apple. Apple took into consideration the potential of the program that would allow iPhone to be broken into and considered the negative effects it could have caused for and from their consumers. In the end, Tim Cook didn’t succumb to the FBI’s orders because they refused to put their consumers at risk of being hacked and have their privacy infiltrated. This shows that not only because there is a grand power over a professional, the FBI over Apple, that the professional should act in an unethical way.

Professionals should be aware that they are clients as well. Under the medical field, there are many paths to choose from. A doctor can specialize and become a cardiologist, dermatologist, neurologist, etc. Even though they are all doctors, one is better at their respective title. Same applies with different jobs. You can be a great lawyer but that doesn’t mean you would be able to fix your car when the ‘check engine’ light turns on. A professional should act ethical toward their client because they wouldn’t want another professional acting unethical towards them. The claim of ignorance is the excuse I find the least trusting. When it comes to car problems, auto mechanics can be the most unethical professionals. A client can be easily persuaded into believing their car has many problems that will take tons of money to fix. If the client has no idea of what’s really the problem with the vehicle, they can easily be taken advantage of like that. What would happen if that mechanic felt ill and went to a doctor with the same intentions? The doctor would send the mechanic to do a lot of labs and tests over a common cold. It is the believe of karma in a sense that ‘what comes around, goes around’. For this, a professional should never act in a way that they wouldn’t be willing to be treated either. What is the point of shifting blames for unethical conduct? The transfer of responsibility is guilty of this belief. This permits a professional to shift the blame to another professional in the same group. For example, in the marshland case study, an engineer was in charge to let a company of some sort either extend their building into the marshland or to hold them off to not negatively affect and pollute it in the long-run. If the engineer would have given them the go, and the building did cause problems in the marshland, the company owner could easily shift the responsibility to the engineer. The engineer shifted it to the state regulator committee, and so on. In the end, the marshland would have still been polluted no matter who were to be blamed. Anyone of them can be held responsible since they all agreed instead of offering a different approach to the situation.

McDowell’s four type of excuses should be frowned upon because it is not right to not put the blame on the professional for their unethical conduct. Would these excuses be worthy of becoming a universal law? After all the arguments presented such as: trust in the professional, not wanting it to happen to themselves, and playing the ‘blame game’, I don’t think it would benefit as a universal law. Universal law is one of the ways to interpret if a believe or practice is beneficial since it would allow everyone to be able to practice it. Since a client would never want a professional to take unethical actions towards them, then the professional is entitled to take blame for the way they decide to act and not put the blame on a bad institutional structure.


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