Decision making ethics is an area of ethics which pertains to making decisions. Ethics are standards of conduct which can be applied to a wide range of situations, from medical practice to running a major company. People make large and small choices every day within the framework of ethics, and decision making ethics looks specifically at how people make decisions and how ethics can be incorporated into making decisions.
There are a number of different approaches to ethics, including the utilitarian approach, the common good approach, the virtue approach, and the fairness approach. Each involves different values and beliefs which shape the ethics people apply to a situation. For example, the utilitarian approach is based on what accomplishes the greatest good for the greatest number of people, once all costs and benefits of a decision have been made. The values of an ethical system play an important role in how people decide which choices are the most ethical.
The practice of decision making ethics looks at how people identify decisions with ethical impact and how they can work through a decision to arrive at an ethically choice. This process includes clearly describing and discussing the decision, weighing costs and benefits with the benefit of information about the decision, and ultimately developing several potential responses which can be tested before choosing the best response. Many people who work in this field also look at self-evaluation after the choice was made, as people reflect on what happened and whether or not the decision worked as intended.
Things to think about when applying decision making ethics include the impact that each potential choice will have, the goal of the decision, how people will respond, who will be impacted by the decision and which concerns should be centered in the decision making process, and how the decision will be applied. Considering all of these issues, people attempt to reach a choice which is ethical and defensible, even if it does not please everyone.
Decision making ethics can be applied to situations such as developing new workplace policy, running a business, taking care of patients, and making charitable donations. It is important to remember that ethics is a broad framework with many approaches and interpretations, and that individual situations need to be evaluated independently. What works in one case may not be ethical in another, even if the two cases appear superficially similar to observers.