Paramedic Ethics for Computer Professionals

W. Robert Collins, Keith W. Miller

W. Robert Collins, Keith W. Miller, Paramedic Ethics for Computer Professionals, Journal of Systems and Software, 17(1):23-38, January 1992.

Most computer professionals know that difficult ethical issues may arise in their work. We believe that these professionals want to "do the right thing." They accept their responsibilities as moral agents and they recognize that their special technical skills give them power and responsibilities. However, the will to act ethically is not sufficient; computer professionals also need skills to arrive at reasonable, ethical decisions. In this article we suggest a set of guidelines to help computer professionals consider the ethical dimensions of technical decisions and offer practical advice to individuals who need to make timely decisions in an ethical manner. We call our guidelines a paramedic method to suggest a medical analogy. We use our method on two realistic ethical dilemmas facing computer professionals. We gather and analyze the data and reach conclusions much as the principals in our cases might. Our paramedic method is not a replacement for considered analysis by professional ethicists. It is a method by which computer professionals can quickly organize and view the facts of an ethical dilemma in a systematic and practical fashion.


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