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Objectivist ethics and professional ethics

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Black Wolf

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I thought I'd take a break from political contemplation, and contemplate ethics in other jobs, written or unwritten?

Is rational egosim compatible with the hippocratic oath? Legal ethics?

Would it be in a doctor's self interest to prescribe pills that patients do not need, and push them on as many people as possible?

Would it be in a lawyer's self interest to combine accounts for his law firm and for his clients?

How would a president, or ruler of an Objectivist society work in his rational self-interest? Wouldn't it be in his self-interest to increase the power of government? To adjust people to government size through a mixed economy of any sorts?

Apologies if a topic such as this has already been created

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The Hippocratic Oath, legal ethics, and the best kind of political leadership can be characterized as long-term self-interest.

As a doctor or lawyer, it is in my personal best interest to command the utmost trust from my patients and clients. This is accomplished by very strictly adhering to a code that makes them comfortable bestowing their trust in me. In the long run, a prestigious reputation goes hand in hand with professional success. Doctors and lawyers may even form a voluntary association whose purpose is to safeguard the reputation of its members by ensuring that they all adhere to their strict code of conduct, or be expelled. (Alas, the modern versions of these associations are farther and farther from this.)

As a political leader, it's in my ration self-interest in the long-term to create the society that I want to live in as one of its individual members. (Alas, the incentives of modern socialized politics make the modern politician into a deliverer of pork to his constituents.)

Is the threat of jail the only reason that prevents you from stealing from your neighbors or murdering your competitors, if you are the strongest among all of them? It is not for me. The rule of might makes right isn't always in the best interest of the mightiest. Even if I am the mightiest, I may not always be so. Even if I am always the mightiest, the weaker may band together and their collective might may bring me down for good. It is in everyone's best self-interest to "treat others as you would expect to be treated", because the more rational and moral individuals that there are, the more secure and safe each one is.

This is how I view moral behavior as in the rational best interest of me and myself alone, and how I define what is moral in the first place. People are generally not so thoughtful as to follow (or even know) their best self-interest in the long-term over the short-term. Sometimes they mistakenly believe that force (or guilt) can make them more successful than they otherwise would be.

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  • 3 months later...
But is the Hippocratic Oath altruistic?

Have you read it?

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Edited by Greebo
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  • 2 months later...

Among the final classes that I took to complete a master of arts in social science this past April was "Ethics in Physics." (Nominally a 400-level undergrad class, it can be taken for graduate credit which I did not do because I had enough credits already. ) If you google, "Ethics in Physics" you will see that Eastern Michigan University and Marshall Thomsen are near the top of the returns. In his footsteps comes now Elizabeth Kubitskey whose master's thesis was on teaching ethics in high school physics. Dr. Kubitskey now teaches the course (as do others occasionally).

For this class, I gathered the ethical codes and codes of conduct of several scientific societies. Some are short lists of principles. Others -- counselors and geographers -- are very involved.

Understanding the phenomenon of misconduct in scientific research should begin with positives, rather than with negatives. We worry about wrongdoing without defining what it means to do right. We post the Periodic Table in our classrooms and laboratories, but we do not display the “Guidelines for Professional Conduct” of the American Physical Society. Moreover, the APS webpage for that has links to the ethics statements of the American Chemical Society, American Mathematical Society, the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Those are all very short statements. The ethics code of the American Counseling Association runs 18 pages. On the other hand, a standard first year textbook for physics majors requires about 400 pages. But all physics problems come down to the conservation of energy. So, why not just teach physics as one page of important points and leave the rest to interpretation?

"PROCEDURAL MISCONDUCT BY SCIENTISTS: PREVENTION AND REMEDIES," by Michael E. Marotta; partial requirement for completion of PHYS 406: Ethical Issues in Physics with Dr. Patrick L. Koehn, Eastern Michigan University, Winter 2010

A basic problem, still unresolved is the distinction between morality and ethics. Even Ayn Rand used the words interchangeably, though they mean quite different things.

Generally speaking, objective morality leads to professional ethics. While there can be no moral contradictions, ethical dilemmas are common. Moral principles are required to solve ethical dilemmas.

Edited by Hermes
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I did read something about a doctor not giving a pessary for an abortion in one translation, however. Would a doctor be violating the hippocratic oath if he performed one?

If you do a simple Google search, you will see that the original Hippocratic Oath has been modernized. For one thing, doctors no longer swear by Apollo.

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