1.A.1. A newspaper columnist signs a contract with a newspaper chain. Several months later, she is offered a position with another newspaper chain at a higher salary. Because she would prefer making more money, she notifies the first chain that she is breaking her contract. The courts will decide the legality of her action. But what of the morality? Did the columnist behave ethically?
When a newspaper columnist signed a contract with a newspaper chain, she is bound by the terms and conditions of the agreement. Whatever is stated in the contract binds legally the columnist and the newspaper chain. If after several months later, another newspaper chain offered her a higher salary, the columnist should take into account the repercussions of her decisions and actions in the event she accepts the offer.
As the problem states, the columnist preferred to earn more money; hence, she had decided to breach the contract with the first newspaper chain. It is up to the courts to decide the legality of the columnist’s action. Apparently, the columnist broke the contractual relationship that she had with the chain. Thus, she has to pay for the money, time and effort spent on her from recruitment, hiring up to the breach of the contract.
Regarding the morality of the columnist’s action, it is unethical in the sense that she violated an existing agreement. Agreement is an agreement. Both parties are bound to comply with all the terms stated in a contract under normal circumstances. Since the columnist did not keep her promises and obligations, she acted unethically for willingly violating the agreement. The first newspaper chain is entitled to sue legally the columnist to the best of its ability and resources for amends.
The columnist should pay for whatever damages incurred because she breached the contract, which ought to be up to the time that the contract expires. The reason for this is obvious: Breaking a contract should never be taken for granted because other employees (and even other individuals) might do the same thing repeatedly. The columnist’s notification is a signal that the first newspaper chain would cause – whether minor or major – impediments in the normal and smooth operations of the company. Further, it would take additional time to hire another employee just to fill in the position vacated by an “unethical” staff.
In the case of the columnist, she is always entitled to look for greener pastures for every opportunity that comes her way. However, anyone should make the necessary restitution for breaking a contract, which will then depend on the gravity of the case, surrounding circumstances, and other possible ensuing adverse consequences on the part of the aggrieved newspaper chain.
Augustine and Aquinas will maintain that what is ethically wrong is ethically wrong, regardless of the circumstances. The columnist ought to act prudently while standing fast on her other more weighty virtues. Even though the columnist decided unethically in breaking the contract, she ought to make all the necessary reparations. If the columnist’s decision would prove beneficial in the long term, then she still acted in accordance to the dictates of her conscience because of a higher purpose. For example, earning more money to help her family and other people, which she cannot do if her earnings from the first newspaper chain is not enough to raise her family and help other people in need – just like her.
1.A.2. An airline pilot goes for his regular medical checkup. The doctor discovers that he has developed a heart murmur. The pilot only has a month to go before he is eligible for retirement. The doctor knows this and wonders whether, under these unusual circumstances, she is justified in withholding the information about the pilot's condition.
The regular medical checkup that the airline pilot has to subject himself into is a company requirement. The airline company would like to ensure the health and safety of its employees and customers (airline passengers). Since the regular medical checkup is a company requirement that an airline staff ought not to forgo, the doctor who knows the pilot’s actual medical condition ought not to hide it from the airline company.
The doctor knows the actual medical condition of his client; hence, he has to inform the airline company. He ought to disregard the pilot’s personal interest and give more importance to the airline company that pays him. Hence, in no unusual circumstances should the doctor withhold any information. His duty is to do the medical checkup and report the results to the airline company. The doctor, even if he puts his shoes either in the pilot’s or company’s, ought to do what is right (that is, perform his duty to the best of his ability and knowledge).
The pilot, whatever his reason may be, ought not to hide his medical condition to the airline company that he serves. If the pilot is truly loyal to his company, he has to tell the truth even if it would mean a lot to him financially (or even for his family). He has to think of the end-result of his action. Just come to think of this: What will happen to him, rest of the airline crew, and customers who paid to get aboard a plane, if the pilot suddenly experienced a heart attack? It might cost the lives of hundreds of people. It will be direly disadvantageous to the airline company if it lost its plane, pay for all the damages to the families of the plane crash, not to mention, for instance, the community where the plane accidentally landed.
If I were the pilot, would I withhold the information to my company that pays me though I render my services up to a month’s period before my retirement? What if one of the airplane passengers is my loving wife or child? Would I gamble for their life just because of my retirement benefits? Definitely, not! So, in like thinking, the doctor ought not be an accomplice to an unethical conduct.
Whether Augustine and/or Aquinas will agree in justifying the withholding of the patient’s (pilot’s) medical condition – I think they wouldn’t. They will maintain that what is unethical stays unethical irrespective of the outcomes of one’s decision and/or action. They would advise both the pilot and the doctor that they ought to act prudently, that is, weigh the consequences of their decisions and actions as virtuous and righteous individuals.
Floyd, S. (2006, May 23). Thomas Aquinas: Moral Philosophy. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource) Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/aq-moral/