318: Professional Ethics
Outline of Stein: Lying and Deception
Bok's definition of lying makes it an action that one undertakes. But there is also the lie of omission: one does nothing, and so allows someone else to continue to have a false belief.
Let's call this deception by omission.
Given a duty of disclosure, when can a professional do this? (See Robinson on duty of disclosure)
Sometimes the professional has a good motive! It really is in the client's best interests to believe their situation is better than it really is.
Perhaps deception is allowed in any case parallel to a case where an outright lie would be justified.
And perhaps professionals have a greater license to lie & deceive, on the grounds that the professional is an amoral agent. (See Wasserstrom) Provided they have adequate reason (& not personal gain), then lies and deception are permissible.
Here, we must assume that the ends justify the means.
OR it might be justified in those cases where the professional judges that the client would not understand the truth.
OR it is justified when it does not cause harm.
HOWEVER, lies and deception "rob" the client of choice. Both are equally paternalistic.
Knowledge is power, and to lie & deceive is to rob the client of power over his/her own life.
Lies & deception must be seen as a last resort!
Useful test (from Bok): Would you still act this way if it is going to become general public knowledge that you did this? Are you only doing it because you think you can keep it a secret? If "no" to first question and "yes" to second, then professional is acting wrongly.
Last updated May 18, 2015