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Are ethics situational? Ever negotiable? Open to interpretation? When you talk about ethics in the context of business versus healthcare, for example, are CEOs likely to be speaking the same language as healthcare professionals? 

On a basic level, ethics can be defined as doing the right thing for the right reason— and thinking about the consequences of actions before actually acting. But ethics are also sometimes discipline specific and colored by our experiences, biases, and changing frames of reference.

We asked LYNN GEORGE, PHD, RN, CNE, dean of the College of Health and Wellness, and DIANE MATTHEWS, PHD, CPA/CFF,CFE, director of the Master of Science in Fraud and Forensics program within the College of Leadership and Social Change, to share their perspectives.

Diane Matthews: Parts of ethics are absolutely universal, such as the use of integrity, due professional care, and confidentiality, but there are other parts that are specific to my discipline. For example, objectivity and expressing an opinion on the reliability of financial statements.

Lynn George: I agree. Healthcare professionals, for example, need to think in terms of removing their own bias, especially when they have to facilitate dif cult discussions between family members or between the patient and other healthcare providers.

Carlow University Magazine: Are there situations when professionals might not realize their behavior is unethical?

DM: You read every day about people committing what most of us would definitely consider unethical acts. We all know about Enron, but you also hear about other examples such as individuals committing fraud in financial statements, identity theft, credit card theft. And you have to ask, how do they not know?

LG: Healthcare decisions are the product of different factors, including professionalism, morals, and spiritual and religious beliefs. It can be a challenge.

CM: So, how do we best prepare our students to become ethical leaders in business and in healthcare?

DM: We as professionals can prepare students by teaching them what their codes of ethics are. As a certified fraud examiner, I can examine fraud, but I cannot express an opinion as to the innocence or guilt of the party. That’s for the judge or jury or the company of the person we are investigating to determine, based upon reliable relevant evidence.

LG: Your point applies to healthcare, as well, Diane. And Carlow’s vision to develop ethical leaders committed to a just and merciful world enhances the entire educational experience. It’s who we are.

Are there other ethical responsibilities inherent to being a professional –in any discipline?

Healthcare professionals are uniquely qualified to look at the environments that our patients are living with and to look at things like healthcare disparities. Why does one population of patients have an outcome that isn’t as positive as another population? Is it related to access to healthcare? To a lack of information?
The utilization of best practice is an obligation for all who are providing care. That is all part of our ethical responsibility.