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Review the following regarding ethical decision making and using the school library for your research, answer the questions asked.

All ethical decisions affect others (by definition) and, as Aristotle points out, ethical decision making is achieved consistently only through practice. Given the outline of virtue ethics provided by Aristotle (i.e., seeking the real goods via the moral virtues), evaluate the moral permissibility of the conduct in question in each scenario. Important note on method: Critical thinking requires the ability to evaluate viewpoints, facts, and behaviors objectively to assess information or methods of argumentation to establish the true worth or merit of an act or course of conduct. Please evaluate these scenarios, first analyzing pros and cons of alternate views, before you come to a conclusion. Do not draw a conclusion first, and then try to find facts to support it—this frequently leads to narrow (and incorrect) thinking.

1.            To properly evaluate the moral permissibility of a course of action using critical thinking skills Begin with an open mind (no preconceptions!)

2.            Isolate and evaluate the relevant facts on both sides,

3.            Identify the precise moral question to be answered, and

4.            Apply ethical principles to the moral question based on an objective evaluation of the facts, only then drawing a conclusion.

A 19-year-old college student and problem gambler was pulled over by police on the Long Island Expressway for driving erratically. He pulled out a toy handgun, pointed it at the officer, and was shot and killed. In a separate incident, a 45-year-old cancer patient was shot by Jersey City police when he entered a pizza shop in which two officers were eating and pulled a gun on them.

These incidents are difficult to explain because they do not appear to be random acts of passion, rage, or felony. As one officer put it, “Why would you point a gun at a police officer,” unless you wanted to be shot?

Some experts believe that incidents such as these are forms of “suicide by cop,” where individuals force police to shoot at them in situations that normally would not involve threat or force. Studies have found that many of these shooting victims are white males in their 20s with a history of alcohol or drug abuse—a profile similar to suicide victims in general who are prone to suffer from depression, hopelessness, and deteriorating personal relationships.

The use of police to carry out a death wish is difficult to explain, but suicide is often difficult for a person to carry out, and using a police officer removes the burden from the individual. Also, life insurance policies do not pay for suicide victims and most religions forbid suicide, making it more problematic for a person to consider. There are no statistics, but it is estimated that up to 10 percent of fatal police shootings are provoked by those actively seeking to die.


QUESTION #1    Evaluate the moral permissibility of “suicide by cop.”


QUESTION #2 To what extent is a police officer morally obligated to assess whether a person he or she shoots actually wants to be killed?

    • Posted: 11 days ago
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    Tags: lawethics
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