Erica works as an IT office at a hospital and is responsible for ensuring that all the systems are up and running. Her job at the department is important since she is there to make sure that everything is up and running smoothly. This ensures that both the staff and the patients are well served. One day, however, Erica claimed that she had to leave to somewhere else where she had to help someone – to fix a system failure that would lead to massive losses. She, therefore, lied to Nancy, her colleague; so that her superiors would not find out that she had left.
Erica was, however, very important in the department. She was the only reliable person who could ensure that the systems were up and running. If the systems ever went down, there would be chaos and there would be a lot of inconvenience in all the departments. Thus, she knew that her superiors wanted her to be present at all instances. Nancy, therefore, only told her superiors what Erica had told her; that she had an emergency. Erica and Nancy, however, knew that the system rarely fails, and that there was little to no chance that her actions would negatively impact the hospital. Luckily, the system never failed, and everything ran smoothly. Furthermore, she was able to prevent massive data loss from the other system.
The Ethical Dilemma
The ethical dilemma here is whether or not it was ethical for Erica to leave her regular work knowing the risks involved if she was not around. The system failure would have caused files to be inaccessible and the hospital to run very chaotically if a mess would not have been fixed soon. However, she also knew that rarely did it happen, and she desperately needed to fix a system failure somewhere else. Also, since the other company had contacted her, she was the only personnel that they knew who had the required expertise to fix their system – otherwise, they would have contacted somebody else instead. Thus, somehow, if the other system went terribly wrong she was to blame for the mess because she had the required expertise but declined not to help.
Analyzing this from the Utilitarian perspective, the ethical choice was to take the action that had the best utility. On one hand, she had a system failure. On the other hand, there was one that had already failed but was not part of her job. Her actions were ethical since, in the end, there was no one that was hurt, nor was there any loss. Her estimations of a possible system failure at the hospital were correct. Additionally, her lie to her colleagues can also be considered ethical since it was an action important in achieving the objective. Utilitarianism means that an action can only be ethical if it brings pleasure to most people (Muglan, 2014). In this case, the person at risk was Erica, who could have lost her job. Her unhappiness was not important since there were more people that would have suffered if the system failure was not fixed.
The Deontological Perspective
From the deontological perspective, her actions were unethical. For an action to be considered moral from Kantian ethics, no person should be used as a means to an end (Stern, 2015). One of the unethical actions includes lying to someone. Erica, in this case, decided to lie to Nancy in order to achieve her objective. The action in this case is lying. No one likes being lied to and therefore, can be considered unethical. Despite the outcome, the end does not justify the means.
From the scenario, one learns that morality depends on one’s perspective. Different ethical theories define moral standards differently. In this case, the utilitarian theory classifies this as moral while the deontological perspective considers this as an immoral action. However, the analyses of both perspectives are considered to be correct based on their underlying principle.
Muglan, T. (2014). Understanding Utilitarianism. New Jersey: Routledge.
Stern, R. (2015). Kantian Etihics: Value, Aegency and Obligation. London: Oxford University Press.