Ethical Cases

It is very hard to comply with professional ethics when making decisions because at some instances, legal and ethical inconsistencies arise resulting into a dilemma. According to Davis, “being ethical does not always mean following the law, and just because something is possible does not mean it is ethical, hence the dilemma” (353).

Since persistent dilemmas do arise in various professions, professional bodies have formulated code of ethics, which stipulates the conduct and prescribes ethical values that the members should uphold when faced with dilemmas in order for them to make the right decisions.

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In this regard, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) formulated their code of ethics to regulate the conduct of their respective engineers. This essay explores two ethical cases and discusses their ethical implications with respect to the American Society Civil Engineers code of ethics.

The Case of Art Ainsworth

In this case, Art Ainsworth has ethical obligation to take further action by informing the building authority about the status of Walter’s residence. One of the fundamental principles of the code of ethics demands engineers to use their knowledge and skills in improving the welfare of human beings; therefore, it is quite ethical for Art Ainsworth to report the matter to the building authority.

Basing on canon one, section one “engineers shall recognize that lives, safety, health and welfare of the general public are dependent upon engineering judgments, decisions and practices incorporated into structures, products, processes and devices” (ASCE 22).

In this case, engineer Art Ainsworth has recognized the structural deficiency in his client’s residence and further advised on the emergency measures required to avert the impending injury or loss of life.

Even though his client, Walter Weakly through his lawyer orders him to take no further action, canon one, section three prescribes that it is ethical for him to furnish information regarding violation of canon one.

Since Art Ainsworth is an employee of his client and has received legal notification from his client to take no further action concerning his residence: it results into legal and ethical complication.

Canon four of the code of ethics requires engineers to act faithfully and avoid conflict of interests emanating from their professional role. The fact that Art Ainsworth had offered to provide engineering service to repair his client’s residence but the client declined and furnish him with legal objection, shows that conflict of interest exists.

Code of ethics canon four, section one states that, “engineers shall avoid all known or potential conflicts of interest with their employers or clients and shall promptly inform their employers or clients of any business association, interests, or circumstances which could influence their judgment or the quality of their services” (ASCE 23).

Therefore, despite the fact that Art Ainsworth has ethical responsibility to take further action since his client has not repaired his residence according to his recommendation, taking further action will have an ethical setback due to the conflict of interest.

Whether public or private building, engineers have ethical responsibility of ensuring that they utilize their skills and knowledge optimally for human and environmental benefit.

According to canon one, “engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties” (ASCE 22).

Hence, Art Ainsworth has ethical responsibility of ensuring that the residence of his client meets the required standard for safety and welfare, and this has no effect on the course of action Art Ainsworth should take.

Given Art’s situation, I would have given the same recommendation to Walter Weakly; that his residence requires immediate repair due to the impending snowstorm, which may cause injury or loss of life. By doing this I will be acting within the code of ethics and ethical test that are imperative in decision-making.

Since code of ethics demands professional action in ensuring safety and welfare of humanity, compelling my client to repair his building in due time is ethical.

In my case, I would have not offered to provide repairing services because it is unethical because it creates conflict of interest, and furthermore, it does not pass ethical tests such as defensibility test, virtue test, reversibility test, and professional test. (Davis 365).

Professional ethics prohibit engineers from soliciting or accepting gratuities from their clients and therefore, offering to provide engineering services to the client is unethical.

The Case of Richard Jones

Richard’s actions are in violation of the ASCE code of ethics, canon one, section two, since he fraudulently signs and seals the documents, which he did not prepare. Canon six of the code of ethics requires engineers to uphold dignity, honor, and integrity of their profession.

According to canon six, section one, “engineers shall not knowingly act in a manner which will be derogatory to the honor, integrity, or dignity of the engineering profession or knowingly engage in business or professional practices of a fraudulent, dishonest, or unethical nature” (ASCE 24).

Richard’s actions do not pass ethical tests of reversibility, defensibility, professional and organizational test, thus quite unethical.

Richard could have taken other actions in order to conform to the ASCE code of ethics and pass various ethical tests. To avoid fraudulence, Richard could have advised his client to terminate his contract legally with the other engineering firm before reviving their business relationship.

Alternatively, he should have demanded a fresh start of the document his client wanted approved rather than approving the work of others.

Canon 5, section two prescribes that, “engineers should negotiate contracts for professional services fairly and on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications for the type of professional service required” (ASCE 24). To pass reversibility and professional test, Richard should have considered his building professional reputation and give fair competition.

If I were in Richard’s position, I would consider legal and ethical implications that would arise. Firstly, approving the work of others is not only against professional ethics, but also it is a criminal offence of fraud, and I would be liable to prosecution in a court of law.

Secondly, signing and sealing the work of others as though my own work will earn me a bad professional reputation that will lead to my suspension or even expulsion from the American Society of Civil Engineers and subsequent doom of my professional career.

Canon 6, section one, states that, “engineers shall not knowingly act in a manner which will be derogatory to the honor, integrity, or dignity of the engineering profession or knowingly engage in business or professional practices of a fraudulent, dishonest or unethical nature” (ASCE 24). Basing my decision on this stipulation, I would have considered following legal and ethical procedures that would enhance my reputation and give fair competition to others.

Works Cited

American Society of Civil Engineers. “ASCE Code of Ethics.” The Fundamental Principles of the ABET Code of Ethics of Engineers. (2006): 21-25.

Davis, Michael. “Developing and Using Cases to Teach Practical Ethics.” Teaching Philosophy 20. (1997): 353-385.


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