Ija Lazari – Pawłowska
By professional ethics I mean written standards which answer the question:
How, from the moral point of view, should the representatives of a given profession act, and how should they not act. Many authors proclaim the thesis of the fundamental identity of professional ethics and general ethics. This thesis seems to be tenable only when general ethics is understood as one definite postulate which is considered to be of general validity. This is the so-called postulate of benevolence. This postulate may occur in two variants:
1) a positive, maximalistic variant, when it requires active endeavours after other people’s welfare; and
2) a negative, minimalistic variant, when it merely requires not to injure anybody. In various systems of professional ethics this postulate is specified in different ways. It is of great importance that the behaviour of, say, a physician be predictable in various particular situations. As some of these situations may come in conflict with others, the effort to codify moral indications of the professional ethics is justified. Such a code would contain norms which are considered to be valid unconditionally, without regard to circumstances. The patient is right when he wants to have a guarantee that without his consent his body will not be used by the physician for biological experiments etc. It is possible both to oppose a codification of general ethics and, at the same time, to support the construction of codes embodying postulates of professional ethics. From a variety of functions, which is a consequence of social division of labour, results the variety of moral obligations. A profession consists in performing a definite social role which is related to the production and protection of definite goods. The systems of professional ethics set up patterns of behaviour for the members of particular professions. Conflicts between different social roles are, in my opinion, in escapable since the values we strive for are of an antagonistic character. An awareness of this fact may exert a favourable influence on people’s attitude. It may contribute to calming down psychological antagonisms; it may also overcome aggressive tendencies existing among representatives of different roles, and increase mutual toleration among people in spite of their insistence on the autonomy of their own roles. Attempts towards the unification of roles, known in history, had had consequences which were generally considered to be negative. The physician should not identify his role with that of an economist, and the same applies to the teacher and the soldier, or to the lawyer and the public prosecutor. In my opinion, there is only one role obliging everybody in any situation, and that is the role of man. It requires that in every action we take account of the welfare or other men and do not bring unnecessary sufferings to anybody.