10 Ethical Dilemmas

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Ethics is a subjective field where everyone has a different idea as to what is right and what is wrong. The best way to determine where your ethics lie is to pose theoretical dilemmas to yourself; these dilemmas help you consider what you think is acceptable and what is not, which helps you fine-tune your own ethical and moral compass.

1 Stealing

Assume your wife is extremely ill, but you have no money with which to buy her medicine. She is extremely uncomfortable, and may die if you don't get her the medicine she needs. Is it acceptable for you to break into the pharmacy and steal the medicine? This dilemma forces you to consider moral laws versus written laws.

2 Revenge

Your neighbor kills someone very close to you. You know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that it was he, but the justice system lets you down and he is allowed to go free. What do you do, if anything? Do you take the law into your own hands?

3 Outside Information

Assume you're negotiating for a big contract. On the weekend before the big negotiation, you inadvertently learn that the company is in worse financial shape than you originally thought. Do you use the information? Do you go into the negotiation but try not to consciously use the information you found?

4 Jury

You're a juror in a trial in which the defendant pleads the fifth amendment. The fifth amendment protects defendants against self-incrimination. Do you think about the fact that she pled the fifth when you are considering how to vote? Is her silence an implicit admission of guilt?

5 Greater Good

You are in a boat with five other people, one of whom is extremely overweight, During a storm, the low-lying boat starts taking on water. If things stay the way they are, everyone is going to drown. However, if you throw the heavy person overboard the remaining five people will live. Do you throw him over for the sake of the greater good, or do you let everyone die?

6 Car Accident

You're driving to work while texting and run into someone, which causes a multicar accident. You get out of your car -- unhurt -- and see that the person you hit is dead. Then, someone comes up to you frantically and says that she hit someone; in the chaos of the crash, she has convinced herself that she hit the person you hit. Do you let her take the fall for you?

7 Taxes

You run your own business and can claim business expenses. Since the IRS does not have many auditing facilities, you realize that you can claim a number of expenses that are not legitimate. Do you do so in order to pay lower taxes, even though you use the same roads, hospitals and schools as other people?

8 Grocery Store

You're buying groceries and the total is $8. You hand the cashier a $10 bill, and she gives you $12 in change, having thought that you gave her a $20. Do you tell her, or do you pocket the $10?

9 Locked Rooms

You and someone else are in locked rooms, unable to communicate with one another. Each of you has a button you can press that will kill you while also unlocking the door to the other room. If an hour goes by without either of you pressing the button, you'll both die. Do you press the button, or wait for him to press his button?

10 Eggs

There are two kinds of eggs available at the supermarket. The free-range hens' eggs are $5 a dozen, and the eggs of hens kept in coops are $3 a dozen. What is more important to you: the hens' living conditions or the $2 savings?

Sam Grover began writing in 2005, also having worked as a behavior therapist and teacher. His work has appeared in New Zealand publications "Critic" and "Logic," where he covered political and educational issues. Grover graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Arts in history.