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March 17, 1988 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-03-17

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How to judge morality
As an undergraduate at New York Uni-
versity a decade ago, Ruth Schwarz
indulged her fascination with the
study of ethics. A double major in classics
and philosophy, Schwarz wrote an honors
thesis on Plato's theory of law and justice,
then went on to study biomedical ethics as
a grad student at the University of Penn-
sylvania. Finding a satisfying job after
graduation was not easy, however. After
several years of searching, Schwarz land-
ed a position with the New Jersey Depart-
ment of Corrections, developing programs
and procedures for the state's 18 juvenile-
detention centers. Now she believes that
her academic training is finally paying
off: "[The job] involves ethical decisions
about what treatment is best and what is
adequate, not just in a legal sense but also
in an ethical sense. Do you treat them like
bad kids you're going to punish or like
good kids you're going to help?"
For better or worse, ethics has become a
growth industry. The need to set standards
of conduct in the workplace and to exercise
moral judgments in many fields seems to
increase with each week's corporate, gov-
ernment or medical scandal. "Two thou-
sand years ago we had a lot of philosophers
sitting around stroking their chins and de-
ciding what was ethical, and there were few
scientists," says Jeff Lyon of the Chicago
Tribune, who won a Pulitzer Prize for sto-

To punish or to help? Schwarz interviewing a juvenile at a New Jersey county center

ries on genetic engineering. "Now we have
the opposite problem-plenty of scientists
and physicians, but we're short on ethi-
cists." To be sure, the job market is still
small, and pursuing the field requires both
flexibility and patience. Ethicists "have to
be willing to accept some years of unem-
ployment, some years of traveling and not
knowing whether they have a job next
year," says Schwarz.
Still, positions are opening in a variety of
places. The federal government has estab-
lished an Office of Government Ethics.
There are private or nonprofit consulting
firms, such as the Washington-based Eth-
ics Resource Center, think tanks like the
Hastings Center in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.,
and university-affiliated agencies such as

Georgetown's Kennedy Institute of Eth-
ics. A small but increasing number of hos-
pitals now maintain their own standing
ethics committees. And some ethicists set
themselves up as individual consultants.
Many backgrounds: Because ethical issues
cut across all fields, there is no standard or
required preparation for people who want
to make ethics their career-although
academic courses are proliferating (box).
Patricia R. Reese, the 31-year-old head of
consulting for the Ethics Resource Center,
holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School
of the University of Pennsylvania, but oth-
ers on the center's 15-member staff have
degrees in Russian studies, French and oth-
er areas of the liberal arts. Reese sees her
job as a way of combining her interest in
business with a social consciousness. "Mak-
ing a contribution is more important to me
than making a ton of money," she says.
Reese spends most of her time on the
road, meeting with corporate clients-
mostly defense contractors, financial-serv-
ices firms and utilities. Her job is to help
them establish or strengthen ethics codes
and to make recommendations to improve
ethical behavior. And more corporations
will soon need such services, predicts di-
rector Gary Edwards, as economic pres-
sure builds to boost productivity. "People
say that in order for them to do their job,
they feel they have to break the law or
break public confidence," he says.
The demand for ethicists in government
seems to be rising as well-witness the
fact that in the two Reagan administra-
tions alone, more than 100 officials have
faced ethical or legal charges. Nancy
Janes, a 29-year-old attorney in the Office

Bioethical concerns: Genetic cross between
goat and sheep, surrogate mother Mary
Beth Whitehead and Baby M


APRIL 1988

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