Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Bringing Ethics Home

When a woman asks doctors to remove a feeding tube from her elderly and comatose mother, is she making an individual or a social decision? When a divorced father refuses to provide for his children, is his failing purely personal or does it have broader ramifications?

The day-to-day moral issues we confront often have their counterpart in the larger questions that face us as a society. In this Issues in Ethics, we explore some of those areas.

As a framework, "Everyday Ethics," by Center Director Thomas Shanks, S.J., offers practical ways to deal with common dilemmas. Only by regular reflection on these questions, Shanks suggests, can we prepare ourselves to take leadership on broader issues.

Those broader issues often hit close to home. For example, while the Supreme Court deliberates on physician-assisted suicide, many of us will have to deal personally with the end-of-life questions made so complex by modern medicine's ability to keep us alive longer — or to kill us painlessly.

Santa Clara University Associate Professor of Philosophy Michael J. Meyer addresses the latter in "Aid in Dying." Companion articles include information on advance directives and a case about how depression affects patients' decisions to stop life support.

Also close to home are questions about family policy. In "The Tie That Binds," SCU Law Professor June Carbone discusses how fidelity to children — not to spouses — is becoming a focus of modern family theory.

The balance between family and job is the subject of "Time to Go Home," a look at long work hours and the ethical questions they raise. And "Ethics at Work" examines how one company — Patagonia — has developed family-friendly policies that pay off in high worker retention and morale.

Many of these articles express a point of view. We believe an author's passion can make a piece more interesting. The opinions do not, however, represent the views of the Markkula Center, which does not take positions on particular issues.

Rather, we try to stimulate dialogue among our readers. We hope you will share your responses to the articles with us.