Business and Finance / Legal and Medical Ethics
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Business and Finance Ethics
Morality in business places a constant demand on the conscience of a believing
Christian. More than any other phase of modern life, the business world is permeated
with problems that challenge one's sense of justice and equity and that call
upon every resource of prudence if a man wants to remain faithful to ethical
principles and also succeed in the competitive market of today's economy.
In other applications of the moral law it is easier to start with broad principles
and apply them to concrete situations, mainly because the variety of situations
is limited and the complexity of any given case is not extreme. Business and
economics are different. No two situations are alike, which might be a truism
except that sometimes a small detail (like time of the day or day of the week)
can alter completely the ethical implications of a business problem, and a different
answer must be given in two cases, both of which superficially appear to be
Accordingly the present chapter deals exclusively with specific cases in business
and finance that were assembled by a professional ethician in the field and
solved according to the basic norms of Christian morality. They are actual life
situations, drawn from hundreds of possible choices and selected to illustrate
typical problems that face the average man or woman engaged in business, as
workman, employer or competitor in the United States.*
Each case is first given in the form of a situation, followed by a suggested
solution. Between the two lies the problematical area in which the case raises
questions of a moral nature, and the answers respond to these unstated questions.
Since the purpose of giving these cases is to teach ethical principles, it is
imperative that the reader 1) ask himself what moral issues are involved in
the situation, 2) first wrestle with the problem by himself and without consulting
the recommended answer, and 3) read the solution given only to clarify and supplement
his own understanding of the case.
For example the first case deals with a man who steals from his employer and
threatens harm to a fellow-worker if the latter reports him to the company.
Among the questions which this implies are: What effect will the continuance
of this theft have on the company, other workmen, and the thief himself?
What duty is there to expose the stealing, and would silence about what
is going on be equivalent to cooperation in the sin? Or again, the fourth
case concerns a girl who looks through the confidential papers of her
employer to find out how he rates her. We might ask: Does an employer
have a right to keep some of his files under secrecy? If so, does an employee
have any right to know how he or she is rated? And if this is legitimate,
what method is allowed to obtain the information? In the fifth case an
advertizer deliberately suppresses certain facts about his product, in
order to improve his sales. But, then, it may be asked whether an advertizer
is obliged to tell everything about his wares. If he is not obliged to
"tell all," how much may he suppress? May it be such knowledge
as might cause harm to the purchaser, and may it hide a substantial defect
in what is being sold?
While all the cases are true to life and actually occurred, the names of persons
and companies have been changed. Moreover since conditions in the business world
are in flux, any one case (or at least some aspect) may be differently handled,
say, five years from now, when prices or the legal implications may have changed.
But with these obvious exceptions, the situations have a permanent instructive
value that remains, to illustrate the enduring relevance of Christian morals
in every human contingency, not excluding the market place.
Theft of Office Supplies. Henry, who works with you at the R.U. Office
Supplies, has been taking home valuable materials from the company. He threatens
to harm you if you report him.
Losses incurred from theft by employees undermine the financial position of
the company, may jeopardize the earnings and job security of innocent employees,
and destroy morale by casting suspicion upon the honesty of all employees who
might be in a position to steal from the company. Undetected thefts of considerable
amount also encourage the thief to continue stealing, and tempt others to follow
Henry has violated commutative justice and is bound to make restitution. If
there is any reasonable hope of persuading him to amend his ways by fraternal
correction, it should be tried. If it is possible for a fellow worker to avert
harm to himself while reporting the theft, he is obliged in charity to do so.
He is only excused when this cannot be done without serious inconvenience to
himself. There is no obligation in justice to report the thief, and no question
of negative cooperation, since you are not formally charged with responsibility
to protect company property against theft.
Wage Cut. The K-L-N-Z Company which I built at Penceville (population
8,793) to produce my patented cleaner has done very well. A $60,000 addition
to the plant will double our capacity and make jobs for seventy-five more
men in the town. To raise the money I find that I have to cut wages by
To provide work for some people is a worthwhile objective; but it cannot be
done by using immoral means. K-L-N-Z is morally bound to pay its present employees
a living wage. Hence, the 20 percent wage cut must at least maintain wages for
present employees at living wage level. Then with the consent of the employees
who are in a position to make this contribution to expansion for the good of
the community, capital might be raised by K-L-N-Z as described in the case,
and perhaps considered as a loan which could later be repaid in increased wages.
Normally a company would seek other sources of supply for its capital needs.
Inventory Counting. George works for a hardware company and it
is his job to check the inventory. He has been instructed to list every item
in his section of the warehouse. Often his report is inaccurate because he fails
to account for small items.
If he deliberately and willfully neglects to account for the small items of
inventory, George does not live up to his implicit contract with his employer
and hence acts unjustly. If his failure is simply due to oversight, George is
not guilty of moral fault. However, if an accurate count of the hardware is
sufficiently important to the company, it would be better not to entrust the
job to George.
Confidential Files. Working alone in the office, Mabel looks
through the confidential personnel file to see how she is rated by her employer.
An employer has as much right to expect his employees to respect the secrecy
of confidential information properly marked and safeguarded as he has to expect
them to leave his personal mail unopened. Those who violate this right are guilty
of injustice. However, if such information is carelessly exposed to those who
might easily pry into it, their offense is rather against charity than justice;
for the owner of confidential information has a responsibility to take the ordinary
precautions that prudence dictates in order to safeguard its secrecy.
Knowledge of how she is rated by her employer would normally be available to
Mabel upon request for such information. If Mabel is refused the information
and has reason to believe that her progress on the job is being retarded by
an adverse rating, she has the option of quitting. Mabel should choose this
alternative rather than the questionable procedure of prying into confidential
Truthful Advertizing. When advertising my wares in newspapers and magazines,
I give a misleading impression by deliberately suppressing some of the facts
about them, though everything stated in the "ads" is true.
The same principle is to be applied to such advertising as moralists apply
to the obligation to disclose defects in the direct vending of merchandise.
The vendor is obliged to reveal all substantial defects in an article. Substantial
defects are those that render the article unsuitable for the purposes for which
it is purchased. However, the seller is not obliged to call attention to obvious
defects of minor importance; such facts may legitimately be suppressed.
Hence, suppression of information that is equivalent to concealing substantial
defects in an article is deceptive and unjust, particularly if the article is
sold on the basis of its advertised qualities without opportunity for inspection
Insurance Adjustment. As an insurance adjuster, it is Irving's business
to know the actual value of the claims he settles. When he deals with ignorant
or gullible claimants, Irving will settle a claim for much less than its actual
It is a violation of commutative justice for an insurance adjuster to withhold
substantial information from the claimant, or to deceive him and settle for
much less than the actual value of the claim. The insured has paid for this
protection; and justice demands the settlement of his claim at full value. Irving,
or his company must make restitution for such injustices.
Overpaid Workman. When Peter Zemeth gets his paycheck, he finds that
he has been overpaid by $30. Without calling the mistake to the attention of
the company, Peter keeps the money.
The overpayment in the case is equivalent to finding that which has been lost
by its owner; it is something involuntarily given up. The fact of losing his
possession of a thing does not cancel the loser's title to ownership. And one
who finds it and knows the rightful owner is bound in justice to return what
he finds. Thus Peter, the employee who knows he has been overpaid, is bound
in justice to return the $30.
Guaranteed Product. Thackerou and Company sell a line of guaranteed
household appliances. Three months after the guarantee has expired, Mrs. Wooler's
Thackerou vacuum cleaner breaks down and she demands that the company repair
or replace it.
A limited guarantee promises the purchaser what is specified, and gives him
an opportunity to test by use the performance of what has been purchased. When
goods are sold with a limited guarantee, the seller cannot be expected to assume
responsibility for breakdowns which may take place after the article has been
subjected to continued use and beyond the expiration of the guarantee. Thackerou
is not bound to repair or replace Mrs. Woolens vacuum cleaner.
Working Full Time. Lottie works in a large office where a fifteen-minute
coffee break is allowed twice a day. Lottie enjoys her coffee and conversation,
and regularly stretches the break for an extra fifteen minutes, both morning
Unless her employer condones stretching the allotted coffee break by an extra
half hour each day, Lottie violates justice by deliberately failing to put in
the time for which she is paid. If continued, it may amount to a serious sin
Seeking Employment. Harry lost his job as shipping clerk because he
was careless and slipshod in filling orders. When interviewed for another job,
he denied that he had ever been discharged from a previous position.
The importance of a good reputation should be appreciated before we try to
evaluate Harry's reply in his interview for another job. A man's good name is
one of his most precious possessions; and its preservation is morally necessary
for ordinary life in society. A person's reputation, the opinion of his character
and behavior formed by others, is usually the result of how he conducts himself
in public. He has a strict right to a good reputation unless he forfeits it
by a public offense that affronts society. One who has been guilty of some secret
offense that has nothing particularly to do with society does not thereby lose
the right of his good name.
Hence, in replying to questions in an employment interview, Harry is not obliged
to reveal information that will damage his reputation and prejudice his chance
of obtaining employment. If necessary, he may conceal deservedly secret information
by using a broad mental reservation.
Overcharge and Restitution. Richard handles payments made by clubs and
organizations for banquets put on by the Kapax Catering Company. At the end
of the month, after checking the bills collected, he finds that he has a surplus
of $230. Richard spent about two weeks trying to account for the surplus, and
when he was unable to find a claimant for the $230 he pocketed the money.
If the $230 were not deliberately taken from those who paid their bills, and
it is impossible to discover those overcharged, just disposal of the surplus
depends upon Kapax Company regulations governing collection of bills. Thus,
if Richard is required to make good shortages from his own pocket, he may use
the $230 for this purpose. If the company assumes losses from shortages, the
money should be turned in to Kapax. If there are no company rules covering surpluses
or shortages, the $230 may be regarded as a lost article to be kept by the finder,
Richard, unless claimed by a rightful owner.
Defective Workmanship. Last summer the Simplon Real Estate Company
sold Jay Ramford an old house without telling him that the chimney was defective.
When Jay fired up the furnace in the fall, he scorched the upstairs rooms and
had to spend $400 to have them refinished.
From the evidence in the case, the chimney was substantially defective. The
Simplon Company, being aware of this condition, was morally obliged to reveal
the defect. Having failed to do so, Simplon is bound to pay for the damage caused
Ramford's upstairs rooms by its concealment of the defective chimney when the
house was sold. And unless the price for which Simplon sold Ramford the house
reflected the depreciated value of the defective chimney, Simplon is also obliged
to stand the cost of putting the chimney in good repair.
Case of Extortion. The Ottoned Elevator Company annually purchases about
$50,000 worth of automatic control equipment from Minature Manufacturers. Recently,
Ottoned engineers advised their company to replace Minature parts with a speedier
control. Ottoned offered Minature an order for the new controls on the condition
that its last invoice for $10,000 be canceled. Should Minature refuse to comply
with the condition, it will lose the entire Ottoned account.
After it has delivered $10,000 worth of equipment to the order of Ottoned Elevators,
Minature has a title in commutative justice to payment. As the case is given,
it would seem that Ottoned is taking advantage of the need of Minature Manufacturers
to retain the Ottoned business. If Minature is forced to accede to the condition
and cancel its $10,000 invoice, Ottoned's action amounts to extortion and is
contrary to commutative justice.
Payment of Taxes. Frank Stunter was the bookkeeper for the Better Building
Materials Company. Following instructions from the president of the company,
Frank kept two sets of books - one minimizing the taxable income of the company
and another that showed its actual financial condition.
There is not unanimity among moralists as to whether payment of taxes obliges
in conscience or only under penalty of civil law. It is clear, however, that
citizens are obliged to contribute their just share of support to the state
by paying the taxes that are claimed to maintain the common good, and the peace
and security of the country. Hence, those who evade taxes violate their civic
duty. There are also severe legal penalties for tax evasion.
Prima Facie, the keeping of a dual set of books as mentioned in the case -
one to minimize taxable income and the other to show the actual financial condition
of the company - indicates intent to evade taxes. By following his presidents
orders, Frank Stunter is cooperating in the evasion of taxes. This will jeopardize
Frank's professional reputation, and may also make him liable to legal prosecution.
It may be that noncooperation will cost Stunter his job. However, unless he
will find it impossible to get another job (and this will not ordinarily happen),
Frank should not cooperate in the tax evasion.
Service Policy. The North Side Television Shop sent out its repairman,
Bert Bare, to put Mr. Annon's television set in good working order. After checking
the set and replacing a burned-out tube, Bert also replaced several other parts
that were then in working order but which would probably need replacement in
the near future. Without explaining that Bert had taken the liberty of replacing
the additional parts, the North Side Television Shop considered this to be standard
practice in television repair service and sent Mr. Annon an expensive bill for
Bert Bare should have told Mr. Amon what he was going to do and obtained his
previous permission to replace the additional television parts. However, Bert
may well have followed his best judgment that the parts would soon need to be
replaced, and thus involve the additional expense of another service call to
the customer. Unless the replacements are clearly unnecessary or overpriced,
the North Side Television Shop's service policy does not violate justice.
Unwarranted Charge. Tony Gorgona is a clerk in the County Recorder's
Office. The county fee for a copy of a record is $2. Tony often collects $5
with his story that the record requires special handling and cannot be delivered
for three months unless $5 is paid.
Tony's misuse of his position in the Recorder's Office to exact an extra charge
for a copy of a record is extortion. The unwarranted charge violates commutative
justice and obliges Tony to make restitution.
Contract Negotiations. Louis Wattman represents the management of the
DeTheux Company in contract negotiations with Gus Vogel of the production workers
union. After two weeks of unsuccessful bargaining for a 10 percent increase
in hourly wage rates, Gus becomes disgusted and threatens to call his men out
on strike. Wattman reports this to the DeTheux president and next day offers
Gus $5,000 to call off the strike and settle for an 8 percent increase in wages.
The bribery offer is a corrupt attempt to induce Vogel to violate his trust
as bargaining representative of the union. The action of the DeTheux Company
is both morally and legally indefensible, as well as being shortsighted and
stupid. Good labor relations are not fostered by such corrupt deals. Wattman
is not morally permitted to cooperate with the scheme; nor may Vogel in conscience
accept the offer.
Union Steward. Ed Polinski has been elected to serve for a year as union
steward in the paint shop of Truck Bodies, Incorporated. Ed does not expect
to be reelected. Therefore he does not press grievances vigorously for the men
in the paint shop because he is afraid that the foreman will take it out on
him when his term of office expires.
As union steward it is Polinski's duty to present to management the legitimate
grievances of the men whom he represents, and to press for settlement with as
much vigor as the evidence or circumstances of the case warrant. In judging
Polinski's problem it should be noted that he derives his income from employment
by Truck Bodies, Incorporated. He is not paid for services as a union steward.
The union steward certainly has a moral obligation to perform the tasks for
which he is elected. His basic obligation toward those whom he represents seems
to be one of fraternal charity. If he is unable to resolve the conflict of interests
mentioned in the case, the honorable thing for Polinski to do is resign as steward.
Reporting Failures. Al Ekker is the supervisor of a busy section of
the Newburg Pen and Pencil Company. The production manager has set very exacting
time and quality standards for Al's section. In spite of his best efforts, A1
cannot keep the work up to schedule; and he tries to conceal his failures from
the manager whenever possible.
Ekker is certainly not permitted to lie in order to conceal his failure to
meet production standards. However, circumstances might justify occasional concealment
of failure to meet the standards. But if failure occurs regularly, Ekker should
take up the matter with the proper authorities. Ekkers supervision may be incompetent;
on the other hand, the standard set may be impossibly exacting. In any case,
the situation should be studied, and suitable remedial measures taken. I would
say that Ekker acts unjustly only when he does not take steps to bring persistent,
major failures to the attention of those in charge of such matters.
Negligence and Damage. As a driver for the Pickup Company, Herb Mainerd
is responsible for the ordinary maintenance of his truck. The vehicle deteriorates
rapidly because Herb negligently lets the pressure of the tires fall far below
the proper level, fails to replenish water and motor oil when needed, and often
leaves the lights burning for long periods of time when the truck is parked.
Mainerd acts unjustly by causing the deterioration of his truck through the
negligence mentioned. However, Mainerd is not morally bound to make restitution
for the damage if the neglect was not willful.
Unethical Personal Gain. Superintendent of playgrounds, William X. Kroman,
lets a contract for supplying equipment for the city to the Higoot Corporation,
a high bidder, after the Higoot sales manager promises Kroman that they will
build a summer cottage for him on the lake.
A bribe is the payment or promise of money or other valuable consideration
to induce one, who is obliged to act without any view of private reward, to
follow the dictates of the briber. It is the duty of those who have the pacing
of contracts for public works to look to the public good and not seek private
advantage from the exercise of the trust committed to them.
Higpotts promise to build Kroman a cottage on the lake is clearly a bribe.
Kroman is bound by his office to let the contract to the lowest bidder who can
satisfactorily supply the equipment. By taking the bribe he violates commutative
justice, defrauds the city of the amount that the high bid exceeds the lowest
satisfactory bid, and is bound to restore this amount to the city.
Perishable Foods. As manager of a chain food store, Russ Storgersen
is allowed a certain percentage of spoilage on his stock of perishable fruits
and vegetables. When the percentage of spoiled goods gets too high, Russ makes
it a practice to increase the price of the unsold perishables in order to try
to keep up his store's income record.
The food store renders a service for which it is entitled to a fair return
when it stocks perishable fruits and vegetables. Those who delay purchasing
them until after a certain percentage has spoiled may justly be charged a share
of the cost of rendering this service, if the store manager has to cull out
spoiled goods for which he can only recover the cost by raising the price of
the perishables that remain to be sold. Hence, Storgersen's practice as described
in the case is not morally blameworthy. However, it is very doubtful that this
policy will attain the results that Storgersen intends. To sell the goods quickly
when they begin to spoil, Storgersen should lower the price instead of raising
it. The original price of the perishables could be set at a level which would
cover the cost of estimated spoilage.
Contract Agreement. The Remodie Construction Company has a contract
to build ten residences for the Deel Realty Corporation. Remodie is unable to
obtain the lighting fixtures called for by the specifications of the contract,
so they install inferior substitutes without lowering their original price for
Fulfillment of the terms agreed upon in a contract is an obligation in commutative
justice. Therefore, before using an inferior substitute for fixtures that cannot
be obtained, Remodie should secure the consent of the Deel Corporation. When
consent to use a cheaper substitute is obtained, Remodie's price in justice
should also be lowered accordingly.
Credit for Ideas. Archie Lowzeus is foreman of the plastic department
of the National Fabber Company. When the workers in his department develop new
ideas for molding plastics and improving operational procedure, Archie invariably
takes full credit for the innovations.
One whose office requires him to direct the work of others should be guided
by the spirit of distributive justice, that is, he should allocate rewards equitably.
When the workers in Archie's department develop ideas for improving operations,
the credit for improvement should be shared with some degree of equity. Hence,
it is not only deceptive but inequitable for Archie to claim full credit for
Traveling Expenses. The Grande Furniture Company annually sends
six of its salesmen to a trade convention in New York City, with all expenses
paid. Last year, Jack Oglemere was one of the six; but he spent all of his time
in New York enjoying the sights of the city.
The Grande Company certainly does not send its employees to attend a convention
and pay all expenses to have anyone spend all his time enjoying the sights of
the city. No doubt, part of the purpose of the trip may be attained by sightseeing
with those in the same line of business who come to the convention. In this
case, however, the Grande Company does not seem to receive full value for the
expense incurred in sending Oglemere to New York. Oglemere, therefore, has a
moral obligation to estimate how much money he misspent and to make restitution.
Workmen's Compensation. On Fridays his employer sends Fred Staute to
the bank to get cash to cover the weekly payroll. Last week as he returned from
the bank, Fred was overpowered by two thieves who took the entire payroll, along
with $85 of Fred's own money. Later, Fred tried to get reimbursement from his
employer for the $85 taken from him while he was carrying out the employer's
Workmen's Compensation laws enacted by many states cover various hazards incurred
by employees. Such laws spell out the legal, and moral obligations of employers
to recompense employees under specified conditions when personal injury with
consequent financial loss has occurred in connection with employment. This obligation
cannot be extended to cover the employee's loss of $85 as described in the case.
Fred himself is responsible for protecting his personal possessions during the
course of his employment.
Raise in Salary. Ralph Preesom has been refused a raise in pay and is
quite dissatisfied with his salary of $80 a week. Ralph maintains that his friends
are getting $90 to $100 a week for doing the same kind of work that
he does, and decides to shirk some of his work until he is "taken care
When Preesom originally agreed to work for a stipulated salary he obliged himself
in justice to carry out the ordinary requirements of his job. Shirking work
generally bring demotion or loss of his job to a replaceable employee rather
than a raise in pay. Presuming that $80 a week is a just wage in the case, Preesoms
dissatisfaction with his salary and his inability to convince the employer that
he is worth more indicates that he would be well advised to seek another job.
Tainted Food. Sam Hutch's hamburger stand is just about meeting expenses.
One day Sam finds that some of his meat has become tainted. Since he can ill
afford to lose the cost of the meat, Sam cooks it up with seasoning and sells
the tainted hamburgers.
"Tainted" is obviously the key word on which Sam's responsibility
hinges in the case. The ordinary meaning of tainted is to signify that which
is "corrupted, contaminated, noxious." Hence, it is clearly unjust
to sell such a defective product at the price of good meat. Sam also makes himself
liable for injury to the health of those who consume his tainted hamburgers.
Automobile Repair. Tom Laramie's garage in the Plum Lane section
of the city services and repairs cars for a number of wealthy families in the
neighborhood. Old John Patcher is an exacting customer who regularly brings
in his big car for a tune-up. Though the car seldom needs much attention, Patcher
has to be convinced that a thorough job has been done. So Laramie lists a number
of fictitious repairs and charges Patcher for them. Laramie claims that if he
did not do this he would lose Patcher's business.
Laramie certainly may charge for the inspection necessary to determine whether
the car needs repair. However, he should try to convince Patcher, the exacting
owner of the car, that he is getting the best of service without unnecessary
charges when his car runs perfectly. Perhaps Laramie might retain Patcher's
patronage by guaranteeing to keep the car in perfect condition for a substantial
fee. In any event, Laramie may not justly charge Patcher for materials that
were not supplied, nor for repairs to the car that were not actually done.
Course in Stenography. Florence Masseleo is very eager to become a stenotypist
for the opportunity this promises to earn big money. She pays a fee of $250
for the training at the Weer School; but after completing the course finds that
she has not developed the speed and accuracy required for the work. Paul Weer
tells Florence that after the very first lesson he knew she would never make
a stenotypist; but he refuses to refund her tuition, even though Florence insists
that Weer took her money under false pretenses.
In the circumstances described by the case, Miss Masseleo received what she
had paid for under the terms of her contract with the Weer school, namely, their
course in stenotyping. Despite Paul Weer's remark, there is no indication that
the failure of Florence to develop the speed and accuracy required for the work
is the fault of the Weer School. Hence, the school has no moral obligation to
refund her tuition.
Price Standards. Gene Yarbrooke's store has held its place on the West
Side for many years. Gene knows his customers well and follows the unusual policy
of charging according to what he thinks they can afford to pay. Thus Yarbrooke's
prices for nonbranded items are higher for those who can afford to pay, while
the less well-to-do buy from him at close to cost.
As we have seen, just price is normally determined by the common estimation
and judgment of the value of an article by experienced buyers and sellers in
a free market. It is unjust to discriminate between buyers of the very same
kind and quantity of goods during a given period of time on the basis of their
ability to pay by charging the rich a price that exceeds the upper limits of
a just price, even in order to sell at lower prices to the less well-to-do.
By so doing the vendor unjustly taxes his wealthy customers to pay for the advantage
he gives the poor. Yarbrooke is obliged to find other ways to finance his benefactions
to needy customers.
Secret Information. Angie Misellay becomes acquainted with the financial
conditions of her employer from the letters which he dictates to her. Later,
Angie passes on this information to her boyfriend who happens to be a creditor
of the company for which Angie works. The man presses for payment of his account
much to the embarrassment of Angie's employer.
Whether bound by express or tacit agreement, those who hold a position of trust
in a business firm are obliged in justice to safeguard secret information about
the business. In our case, Angie unjustly violates this trust by revealing confidential
information concerning the shaky financial condition of the company to her friend.
Investment Ethics. Ted Blue, treasurer of the Roget Company, has successfully
engaged in speculation of the stock market with his own funds. However, there
comes a time when Ted does not have the money to meet a $2,000 mortgage payment
on his house. In searching for an investment that will yield quick returns,
Ted gets a reliable tip that a certain Canadian stock will rise 20 or 30 percent
within the next few weeks. Without permission of his firm, Ted manipulates the
Roget records to get $10,000 to invest in the stock. The investment is successful,
Ted sells the stock, and returns the $10,000 without detection.
Mr. Blue's abuse of his position as treasurer of the Roget Company was both
morally wrong and legally dangerous. He violated commutative justice when he
took the $10,000 from the treasury without authorization. He had no right to
take the money or to invest it; but having done so, Blue may retain what was
earned on the investment. If the Roget Company suffered no financial loss during
the short period of time that Blue used its funds, his obligation to make restitution
is satisfied by returning the $10,000 to the company.
Job Benefits. Ned Mackdown gets a rush order that will require
overtime work for the people in his department. Ned knows that he can
get the job out in three hours by using all of the available workers in
the department. However, Ned wants his friends in the department to benefit
from extra overtime pay; so he schedules them alone for the work, even
though this delays the job for another day.
First of all, Mackdown is unjust to his employer if the company suffers a loss
from his deliberate delay in filling the rush order. In playing favorites and
restricting the selection of those to benefit from overtime to his friends in
the department, Mackdown also behaves inequitably contrary to the spirit of
Pension Plan. The Hollbender Company does not have a pension plan; and
the company policy is to replace aging employees with younger and cheaper help.
Enlightened personnel administration, as well as good morals, point to the
advantage of recognizing service rendered to a company by faithful employees
of long tenure by giving them as much job security as possible, for example,
by planning to transfer them in due time to work for which their age and experience
qualifies them, and be providing a pension upon retirement. Business efficiency
and profitability are not incompatible with an intelligent, equitable policy
for dealing with older employees. Though the employee does not have a strict
right to his job unless there is a formal agreement to that effect, the Hollbender
policy is certainly uncharitable and inequitable when faithful services are
callously requited by discharge in order to make way for younger and cheaper
Stockholders' Preferred. The Averbeck Corporation planned to build a
new factory in a nearby town. Before announcing the plan to the general public,
the Averbeck directors called in several of their large stockholders and informed
them of it and gave the exact location of the new site. These stockholders then
bought up a group of multiple low-cost apartment dwellings in areas adjacent
to the new factory, and in a short time demolished these dwellings to open up
various profitable commercial establishments there.
There seems to be no apparent reason why the Averbeck directors may not divulge
their intention to locate a new factory in a certain place to some of their
stockholders. Nor are they to whom this information is communicated morally
prohibited from using it in the manner described in the case.
Maximum Just Price. The Debraun Drugstore in the small western town
of Banshow has a large stock of a powerful new drug. The supply of the other
stores in Banshow is low and replenishment will take several weeks. Suddenly
an epidemic strikes Banshow, and knowing the local supply conditions, Debraun
immediately takes advantage of his favorable position and triples his price
for the badly needed drug.
Moralists agree that a vendor may not morally sell a thing beyond the maximum
just price simply because of the special need of an individual purchaser. It
is clear that such need is not something that belongs to the vendor, and therefore
he cannot put a price on it. Thus Debraun's tripled price would be unjust when
charged a single needy purchaser. However, in this case there is question not
of the need of an individual but of the Banshow community. This objective factor
might well cause the general estimate of prudent men to sanction a raise in
price, say to ration the scarce supply of the drug. Furthermore, should the
circumstances call for it, the community may exercise its police power, or the
right of eminent domain, to take over the limited supply of the drug at a fair
Using Tools. Gerald Keebar works in the toolroom of a large manufacturing
plant; and he knows that his friend, Pat Keyhoe, who works on the assembly line,
is in financial straits. In the fall of the year, Pat badly needs a set of tools
to repair his house. Gerry knows that Pat does not have the money to purchase
tools, so he lends him a set of company tools. Just before Christmas, Pat is
laid off from work and never returns the tools.
If lending out company tools for personal use from the toolroom is against
the reasonable wish of the company, Keebar violates commutative justice when
he lends the tools to Keyhoe. When the tools are not returned, the obligation
to make restitution for them falls directly and in the first place upon Keyhoe
to whom they were lent. When Keyhoe does not return the tools, Keebar is obliged
to get them, or failing this he must make good their value to the company.
Partnership Agreement. When Carl Ashberg and Theodore Patcowski formed
their business partnership they agreed to divide the profits equally. Carl is
very energetic and spends his evenings and spare time soliciting customers to
increase the volume of the business. Eventually, Carl comes to think that his
efforts merit more than half of the profits of the business. Without discussing
the situation with Ted, Carl contrives to swing deals that give him about 75
percent of the profits.
"Partners are bound to render exact accounts and full information to every
partner in all details which affect the business of the firm. They must account
for any benefit derived from their work in the firm's business." Ashberg
violates the partnership agreement when he takes more than half of the profits
of the business; and he is bound to make restitution. Dissatisfaction with the
performance of his partner and his own share of the profits may be remedied
by formally agreeing to alter the proportion in which profits are shared, or
by dissolving the partnership altogether.
Extension of Credit. Herman Haushanser is requested to supply financial
information about his tool and die shop to the Mechano Tool Company before they
will agree to grant him credit on a shipment of parts. Before he submits a statement
to Mechano for extension of credit, Herman gets his bookkeeper to alter the
balance sheet by reducing current indebtedness in order to cover up weakness
in working capital.
The basic condition required of the company seeking credit is evidence of ability
to pay for the goods that are sold on trust when the bill comes due. Altering
the record of current indebtedness, as described in the case, deliberately misleads
the Mechano Company with intent to deceive. Haushanser acts unjustly when he
seeks to get an extension of credit under false pretenses. He is guilty of deception,
and of injustice with the obligation to make restitution, if he receives the
goods and fails to pay for them. Haushanser's bookkeeper is morally forbidden
to cooperate in this injustice.
Quality of Cloth. Maurice Valhollow orders a large shipment of second-quality
cloth from a mill in New England. Maurice then sells the cloth as first quality,
and at first-quality prices, thereby undermining the reputation of the New England
In the first place, Valhollow violates commutative justice by deliberately
deceiving purchasers about the substantial quality of the cloth he sells, and
is bound to make restitution for the difference in value between each second-quality
piece sold at first-quality price. Furthermore, insofar as Valhollow damaged
the reputation of the New England mill by undermining confidence in the quality
of its cloth, he is bound to take effective measures to restore this reputation.
Sale of Property. Roger Dapple learns that the Marameg Chain Groceries
have purchased the property across the street from his store. Roger then sells
his store without delay by stressing the profitable volume of business that
he has been doing; but he does not inform the purchaser of the impending competition.
Moralists agreed that it is not unjust to sell something at the current just
price when you know that it will soon depreciate in value. However, to take
advantage of this knowledge is a violation of charity when sale at the current
price would put the purchaser in greater need than the seller. Therefore, we
cannot say that Mr. Dapple has acted unjustly; but he does have an obligation
in charity to take account of the ability of his purchaser to meet the impending
Obscene Literature. Alex Gaudeline, owner of the Waubanshee Printers,
finds that his shop is running short of jobs. Reluctantly, Alex agrees to print
several obscene paperbacks in order to keep his workers employed until other
jobs can be found.
The spiritual harm done by obscene books imposes a heavy obligation to refuse
to cooperate in their printing. Even though the printer does not share the evil
intention of the author or publisher, his material cooperation does make the
obscene material available. Perhaps one printer's refusal to handle the job
will not keep the stuff out of print, but whoever prints it cannot dissociate
himself from intimate cooperation with disseminating the obscene work. For these
reasons we believe that the hardship threatened Gaudeline and his employees
in the case does not justify printing the obscene paperbacks. Furthermore, there
is a better alternative open to Gaudeline; for it is not at all uncommon for
printers to take jobs at cost in order to keep their working force employed.
Lottery Contract. Simon Van Merlino held a public auction to dispose
of his stock of three hundred used cars. To attract customers, Simon advertised
that every bidder would be given a free chance on a new automobile. Raymond
Johnson held the winning ticket; but Van Herlino failed to provide the new car.
Johnson then brought suit to compel delivery. The court held that bidding at
the auction was sufficient consideration to support the contract, but that the
agreement was unenforceable because the scheme was a lottery. Johnson claimed
that this consideration did not cancel Van Merlino's moral obligation to live
up to his advertised agreement.
Unless the prize or the purpose for which it is given is immoral, fulfillment
of the contract of lottery obliges in justice. In this case, Ray Johnson has
a strict right to the new automobile; and Van Merlino is morally, if not legally,
bound to deliver the car or its value to Johnson.
Price Increase. The Civtor Nut and Bolt Company regularly sold most
of its production to the Milies Corporation. Three months after Milies received
a $10,000,000 defense contract, the Civtor Company was able to increase the
price of its products by 50 percent without opposition from Milies whose earnings
on the defense contract easily absorbed the increased cost of nuts and bolts.
The supposition in this case is that the Milies Corporation accepts the 50
percent increase in the price of Civtor products because the cost will be passed
on to the government under the Milies defense contract. By taking such advantage
of the situation, Civtor violates commutative justice and is bound to make restitution.
And by cooperating in this injustice and sharing in the gain from it, the Milies
Corporation incurs the obligation to make restitution for its share of the unjust
Investment Advice. Bernard O'Doode is a successful broker who attends
a good many social affairs. Those whom he meets at these parties sometimes ask
him what he considers to be a good buy on the market. In response to questions,
Bernard has given offhand opinions on investments of which he has very little
definite knowledge. It often happens that those who follow Bernard's views suffer
losses in their investments
From the circumstances in which O'Doode's opinions about possible investments
are given it should be evident to his questioners that the views are offhand
and unofficial. It would be more prudent for O'Doode to refrain from expressing
such opinions; but he is not responsible for losses that anyone may suffer by
following his informal opinions about the market.
Competition for Customers. For five years, James Tarry has been a deliveryman
for the East Town Laundry and Linen Service. Then Jim starts a laundry service
of his own and tries to build it up by contacting the customers he had served
for East Town. Tarry offers to do the work for a lower price; and thus he is
able to draw a number of large accounts away from East Town.
To prevent the sort of competition described in the case, businessmen sometimes
require their salesmen to sign an agreement not to solicit orders from former
customers for a specified period of time after they leave their employment.
Such a contract is legally binding when it is reasonably related to the protection
of the business. In the absence of such a contract, the East Town Laundry and
Linen Service would have no legal recourse to sue Tarry for breach of contract.
However, even though it cannot be established that the proprietor of such a
business has a strict right to the patronage of his customers, the nature of
the relationships between service industries, their salesmen, and customers
can make it inequitable for salesmen to take undue advantage of their former
employer after they leave his employment. If Tarry is able to give as good or
better service than East Town at lower prices, he should have little trouble
attracting customers. To preserve the equities of this situation, Tarry should
refrain from using his influence to pressure customers away from East Town,
and seek his patronage in the open market.
Construction Justice. Alfred Van Lommal is employed by Zoiland Architects
as overseer during the construction of residences designed by Zoiland. When
the occasion seems favorable, Alfred asks a subcontractor to "write him
in for $100" on a job he is inspecting for the architect. Alfred is paid
a fee by Zoiland but he feels that the sum is inadequate; and he takes this
means to get supplementary remuneration.
Alfred maintains that this does not lead him to permit cheapening of the job;
he will still insist that good work be done. He admits that his extra fee from
a subcontractor is eventually paid by the home buyer and alleges that the practice
of cutting in the overseer is common among contractors, even though some of
them frown upon it.
The duty of the architect's overseer is to protect the interests of the home
buyer for Zoiland by inspecting the work of the contractor and subcontractors.
By extorting $100 from a subcontractor, Van Lommal puts himself under obligation
to one whose work he should be checking. Thus it seems unlikely that Van Lommal
can be firm with the subcontractor in insisting that the building be put up
according to specifications. What is extorted from the subcontractor and charged
off against the home buyer in the case is a violation of commutative justice
by both Van Lommal and the subcontractor. Van Lommal's injustice is also damaging
to the reputation of the Zoiland architectural firm. As principal agent in this
conspiracy to overcharge the home buyer, the obligation of restitution primarily
rests upon Van Lommal and secondarily (should Van Lommal default) upon the subcontractor.
Sale of Insurance. The Longe Insurance Company awards a $1,000
bonus to the Longe agent who sells the largest amount of insurance in the year.
It is a company rule that no agent can sell the client of another without giving
him due credit.
Leo Sunner received the award last year by contacting a prospect who held insurance
written by another agent of the company. Leo found that the prospect, Mr. Gartner,
wanted additional insurance, and presented him with an attractive plan which
resulted in a large cash purchase.
Leo assured Mr. Gartner that he would inform the Longe agent who had first
sold him insurance and that suitable credit would be given to this agent. Leo,
however, did not inform the company nor the other agent and won the $1,000 bonus
as a result of the Gartner purchase.
Sumer violated the agreement existing between the Longe Company and its agents
forbidding one to sell insurance to the client of another agent without consulting
him and working out an agreement for the credit. Having violated the strict
right of the agent who first sold Gartner insurance, Sumer is obliged to make
suitable restitution to this agent for the commission derived from the Gartner
sale. Neither has Sumer a just claim to the $1,000 bonus which he won by misinforming
Gartner about giving due credit to his original agent and thereby violating
the company agreement. Sumer, therefore, must also find a way to make restitution
for the $1,000 bonus, if possible without prejudicing his relationships with
the Longe Company or the other agent, say by giving the money to charity.
Contract of Sale. Antillock Textiles is an old established family
concern that follows highly moral principles, but whose marketing practices
have become obsolete. The company grosses $1,500,000 annually and has been "in
the red" for several years.
Michael Brockmoor, the new sales manager, is a vigorous young man who starts
to push the sale of cloth bagging which is used by packers to cover meat that
is first wrapped in paper. The packers supply specifications for the bagging
but they are so detailed and complicated that purchased bags are never checked
against specifications. The big packers always take the lowest bid, and selling
them is highly competitive with a margin of profit that amounts to no more than
a few cents per bag.
Brockmoor succeeds in breaking into this market with Antillock bags by making
them cheaply out of rewoven rag cloth. These bags will serve the purpose for
which they are purchased even though they are slightly discolored.
This case may be decided by applying the following principles which govern
the contract of sale.
A seller is not obliged spontaneously to disclose merely accidental defects
in what he sells, provided that the article is fit for fulfilling the purpose
for which it is bought. But if a seller is asked by a buyer about such accidental
defects, he must either disclose them, or decline to guarantee the article.
To sell adulterated material as pure is not unjust if the mixture is practically
as good in use as the pure article. Buyers usually take the risk of not betting
quite what they ask for, and if neither deceit nor duress is employed, and if
the buyer has the opportunity of examining the article which he is buying; he
takes the risk.
Since the bags sold by Antillock serve the purpose for which they are purchased,
the discoloration may be regarded as an accidental, minor defect; and Brockmoor
is permitted to sell these bags under the conditions described.
Legal and Medical Ethics
The legal and medical professions cut across so many facets of human conduct
and imply so many principles of morality that some knowledge of the ideals of
these two professions should be familiar to everyone. Fortunately lawyers, doctors
and nurses have reflected a great deal on the ethics that should guide their
professional conduct, and a summary of these ethical norms is available to the
One indication of how seriously they take their own norms is the frequency
with which the principles are invoked in admitting people to the practice of
law or medicine, and how instinctively people sense that "something is
wrong" when a man steps out of line and becomes guilty of practices that
embarrass his profession and detract from the respect which the public has for
the lawyer and medical practitioner.
A famous authority on legal morality, George Sharswood, expressed a judgment
on the ethical demands made of lawyers and judges that is sobering in its realism.
"There is certainly without any exception," he wrote, "no profession
in which so many temptations beset the path to swerve from the line of strict
integrity, in which so many delicate and difficult questions of duty are continually
arising. There are pitfalls and mantraps at every step, and the mere youth,
at the very outset of his career, needs often the prudence and self-denial as
well as the moral courage which belong commonly to riper years. High moral principle
is the only safe guide."
As far back as 1908, the American Bar Association adopted a set of canons of
professional ethics that have been several times amended since, and that remain
today the "safe guide" which lawyers in the United States are offered
in their practice of law in all its ramifications and moral complexity. Following
the canons is the Oath of Admission to the Bar, which the Association submitted
to the various States and that is substantially the formula currently used throughout
Preamble. In America, where the stability of Courts and of all departments
of government rests upon the approval of the people, it is peculiarly essential
that the system for establishing and dispensing Justice be developed to a high
point of efficiency and so maintained that the public shall have absolute confidence
in the integrity and impartiality of its administration. The future of the Republic,
to a great extent, depends upon our maintenance of Justice pure and unsullied.
It cannot be so maintained unless the conduct and the motives of the members
of our profession are such as to merit the approval of all just men.
No code or set of rules can be framed, which will particularize all the duties
of the lawyer in the varying phases of litigation or in all the relations of
professional life. The following canons of ethics are adopted by the American
Bar Association as a general guide, yet the enumeration of particular duties
should not be construed as a denial of the existence of others equally imperative,
though not specifically mentioned.
Duty of the Lawyer to the Courts. It is the duty of the lawyer to maintain
towards the Courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the judicial office,
but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. Judges, not being wholly
free to defend themselves, are peculiarly entitled to receive the support of
the Bar against unjust criticism and clamor. Whenever there is proper ground
for serious complaint of a judicial officer, it is the right and duty of the
lawyer to submit his grievances to the proper authorities. In such cases, but
not otherwise, such charges should be encouraged and the person making them
should be protected.
Selection of Judges. It is the duty of the Bar to endeavor to prevent
political considerations from outweighing judicial fitness in the selections
of Judges. It should protest earnestly and actively against the appointment
or election of those who are unsuitable for the Bench; and it should strive
to have elevated thereto only those willing to forego other employments, whether
of a business, political or other character, which may embarrass their free
and fair consideration of questions before them for decision. The aspiration
of lawyers for judicial position should be governed by an impartial estimate
of their ability to add honor to the office and not be a desire for the distinction
the position may bring to themselves.
Attempts to Exert Personal Influence on the Court. Marked attention
and unusual hospitality on the part of a lawyer to a Judge, uncalled for by
the personal relations of the parties, subject both the Judge and the lawyer
to misconstructions of motive and should be avoided. A lawyer should not communicate
or argue privately with the Judge as to the merits of a pending cause, and he
deserves rebuke and denunciation for any device or attempt to gain from a Judge
special personal consideration or favor. A self-respecting independence in the
discharge of professional duty, without denial or diminution of the courtesy
and respect due the Judge's station, is the only proper foundation for cordial
personal and official relations between Bench and Bar.
When Counsel for an Indigent Prisoner. A lawyer assigned as counsel
for an indigent prisoner ought not to ask to be excused for any trivial reason,
and should always exert his best efforts in his behalf.
Defense or Prosecution of Those Accused of Crime. It is the right of
the lawyer to undertake the defense of a person accused of crime, regardless
of his personal opinion as to the guilt of the accused; otherwise innocent persons,
victims only of suspicious circumstances, might be denied proper defense. Having
undertaken such defense, the lawyer is bound, by all fair and honorable means,
to present every defense that the law of the land permits, to the end that no
person may be deprived of life or liberty, but by due process of law.
The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict,
but to see that justice is done. The suppression of facts or the secreting of
witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused is highly reprehensible.
Adverse Influences and Conflicting Interests. It is the duty of a lawyer
at the time of retainer to disclose to the client all the circumstances of his
relations to the parties, and any interest in or connection with the controversy,
which might influence the client in the selection of counsel.
It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests, except by express
consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Within
the meaning of this canon, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when, in
behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another
client requires him to oppose.
The obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity and not to divulge
his secrets or confidences forbids also the subsequent acceptance of retainers
or employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest of the
client with respect to which confidence has been reposed.
Professional Colleagues and Conflicts of Opinion. A client's proffer
of assistance of additional counsel should not be regarded as evidence of want
of confidence, but the matter should be left to the determination of the client.
A lawyer should decline association as colleague if it is objectionable to the
original counsel, but if the lawyer first retained is relieved, another may
come into the case.
When lawyers jointly associated in a cause cannot agree as to any matter vital
to the interest of the client, the conflict of opinion should be frankly stated
to him for his final determination. His decision should be accepted unless the
nature of the difference makes it impracticable for the lawyer whose judgment
has been overruled to co-operate effectively. In this event it is his duty to
ask the client to relieve him.
Efforts, direct or indirect, in any way to encroach upon the professional employment
of another lawyer, are unworthy of those who should be brethren at the Bar;
but, nevertheless, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or favor, to
give proper advice to those seeking relief against unfaithful or neglectful
counsel, generally after communication with the lawyer of whom the complaint
Advising Upon the Merits of a Client's Cause. A lawyer should
endeavor to obtain full knowledge of his client's cause before advising thereon,
and he is bound to give a candid opinion of the merits and probable result of
pending or contemplated litigation. The miscarriages to which justice is subject,
by reason of surprises and disappointments in evidence and witnesses, and through
mistakes of juries and errors of Courts, even though only occasional, admonish
lawyers to beware of bold and confident assurances to clients, especially where
the employment may depend upon such assurance. Whenever the controversy will
admit of fair adjustment, the client should be advised to avoid or to end the
Negotiations with Opposite Party. A lawyer should not in any way communicate
upon the subject of controversy with a party represented by counsel; much less
should he undertake to negotiate or compromise the matter with him, but should
deal only with his counsel. It is incumbent upon the lawyer most particularly
to avoid everything that may tend to mislead a party not represented by counsel,
and he should not undertake to advise him as to the law.
Acquiring Interest in Litigation. The lawyer should not purchase any
interest in the subject matter of the litigation which he is conducting.
Dealing with Trust Property. The lawyer should refrain from any
action whereby for his personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantage
of the confidence reposed in him by his client.
Money of the client or collected for the client or other trust property coming
into the possession of the lawyer should be reported and accounted for promptly,
and should not under any circumstances be commingled with his own or be used
Fixing the Amount of the Fee. In fixing fees, lawyers should avoid charges
which overestimate their advice and services, as well as those which undervalue
them. A clients ability to pay cannot justify a charge in excess of the value
of the service, though his poverty may require a less charge, or even none at
all. The reasonable requests of brother lawyers, and of their widows and orphans
without ample means, should receive special and kindly consideration.
In determining the amount of the fee, it is proper to consider: (1) the time
and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved and
the skill requisite properly to conduct the cause; (2) whether the acceptance
of employment in the particular case will preclude the lawyer's appearance for
others in cases likely to arise out of the transaction, and in which there is
a reasonable expectation that otherwise he would be employed, or will involve
the loss of other employment while employed in the particular case or antagonisms
with other clients; (3) the customary charges of the Bar for similar services;
(4) the amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the
client from the services; (5) the contingency or the certainty of the compensation;
and (6) the character of the employment, whether casual or for an established
and constant client. No one of these considerations in itself is controlling.
They are mere guides in ascertaining the real value of the service.
In determining the customary charges of the Bar for similar services, it is
proper for a lawyer to consider a schedule of minimum fees adopted by a Bar
Association, but no lawyer should permit himself to be controlled thereby or
to follow it as his sole guide in determining the amount of his fee.
In fixing fees it should never be forgotten that the profession is a branch
of the administration of justice and not a mere money-getting trade.
Contingent Fees. A contract for a contingent fee, where sanctioned
by law, should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case, including
the risk and uncertainty of the compensation, but should always be subject to
the supervision of a court, as to its reasonableness.
Suing a Client for a Fee. Controversies with clients concerning compensation
are to be avoided by the lawyer so far as shall be compatible with his self-respect
and with his right to receive reasonable recompense for his services; and lawsuits
with clients should be resorted to only to prevent injustice, imposition or
How Far a Lawyer May Go in Supporting a Client's Cause. Nothing operates
more certainly to create or to foster popular prejudice against lawyers as a
class, and to deprive the profession of that full measure of public esteem and
confidence which belongs to the proper discharge of its duties than does the
false claim, often set up by the unscrupulous in defense of questionable transactions,
that it is the duty of the lawyer to do whatever may enable him to succeed in
winning his client's cause.
It is improper for a lawyer to assert in argument his personal belief in his
client's innocence or in the justice of his cause.
The lawyer owes "entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal
in the maintenance and defense of his rights and the exertion of his utmost
learning and ability," to the end that nothing be taken or be withheld
from him, save by the rules of law, legally applied. No fear of judicial disfavor
or public unpopularity should restrain him from the full discharge of his duty.
In the judicial forum the client is entitled to the benefit of any and every
remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land, and he may expect
his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. But it is steadfastly to
be borne in mind that the great trust of the lawyer is to be performed within
and not without the bounds of the law. The office of attorney does not permit,
much less does it demand of him for any client, violation of the law or any
manner of fraud or chicane. He must obey his own conscience and not that of
Restraining Clients from Improprieties. A lawyer should use his best
efforts to restrain and to prevent his clients from doing those things which
the lawyer himself ought not to do, particularly with reference to their conduct
towards Courts, judicial officers, jurors, witnesses and suitors. If a client
persists in such wrong-doing the lawyer should terminate their relation.
Ill-Feeling and Personalities Between Advocates. Clients, not lawyers,
are the litigants. Whatever may be the ill-feeling existing between clients,
it should not be allowed to influence counsel in their conduct and demeanor
toward each other or toward suitors in the case. All personalities between counsel
should be scrupulously avoided. In the trial of a cause it is indecent to allude
to the personal history or the personal peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of
counsel on the other side. Personal colloquies between counsel which cause delay
and promote unseemly wrangling should also be carefully avoided.
Treatment of Witnesses and Litigants. A lawyer should always treat adverse
witnesses and suitors with fairness and due consideration, and he should never
minister to the malevolence or prejudices of a client in the trial or conduct
of a cause. The client cannot be made the keeper of the lawyer's conscience
in professional matters. He has no right to demand that his counsel shall abuse
the opposite party or indulge in offensive personalities. Improper speech is
not excusable on the ground that it is what the client would say if speaking
in his own behalf.
Appearance of Lawyer as Witness for His Client. When a lawyer is a witness
for his client, except as to merely formal matters, such as the attestation
or custody of an instrument and the like, he should leave the trial of the case
to other counsel. Except when essential to the ends of justice, a lawyer should
avoid testifying in court in behalf of his client.
Newspaper Discussion of Pending Litigation. Newspaper publications
by a lawyer as to pending or anticipated litigation may interfere with
a fair trial in the Courts and otherwise prejudice the due administration
of justice. Generally they are to be condemned. If the extreme circumstances
of a particular case justify a statement to the public, it is unprofessional
to make it anonymously. An ex parte reference to the facts should
not go beyond quotation from the records and papers on file in the court;
but even in extreme cases it is better to avoid any ex parte statement.
Punctuality and Expedition. It is the duty of the lawyer not only to
his client, but also to the Courts and to the public to be punctual in attendance,
and to be concise and direct in the trial and disposition of causes.
Candor and Fairness. The conduct of the lawyer before the Court and
with other lawyers should be characterized by candor and fairness.
It is not candid or fair for the lawyer knowingly to misquote the contents
of a paper, the testimony of a witness, the language or the argument of opposing
counsel, or the language of a decision or a textbook; or with knowledge of its
invalidity, to cite as authority a decision that has been overruled, or a statute
that has been repealed; or in argument to assert as a fact that which has not
been proved, or in those jurisdictions where a side has the opening and closing
arguments to mislead his opponent by concealing or withholding positions in
his opening argument upon which his side then intends to rely.
It is unprofessional and dishonorable to deal other than candidly with the
facts in taking the statements of witnesses, in drawing affidavits and other
documents, and in the presentation of causes.
A lawyer should not offer evidence which he knows the Court should reject,
in order to get the same before the jury by argument for its admissibility,
nor should he address to the Judge arguments upon any point not properly calling
for determination by him. Neither should he introduce into an argument, addressed
to the court, remarks or statements intended to influence the jury or bystanders.
These and all kindred practices are unprofessional and unworthy of an officer
of the law charged, as is the lawyer, with the duty of aiding in the administration
Attitude Toward Jury. All attempts to curry favor with juries by fawning,
flattery or pretended solicitude for their personal comfort are unprofessional.
Suggestions of counsel, looking to the comfort or convenience of jurors, and
propositions to dispense with argument, should be made to the Court out of the
jury's hearing. A lawyer must never converse privately with jurors about the
case; and both before and during the trial he should avoid communicating with
them, even as to matters foreign to the cause.
Right of Lawyer to Control the Incidents of the Trial. As to incidental
matters pending the trial, not affecting the merits of the cause, or working
substantial prejudice to the rights of the client, such as forcing the opposite
lawyer to trial when he is under affliction or bereavement; forcing the trial
on a particular day to the injury of the opposite lawyer when no harm will result
from a trial at a different time; agreeing to an extension of time for signing
a bill of exceptions, cross interrogatories and the like, the lawyer must be
allowed to judge. In such matters no client has a right to demand that his counsel
shall be illiberal, or that he do anything therein repugnant to his own sense
of honor and propriety.
Taking Technical Advantage of Opposite Counsel; Agreements with Him.
A lawyer should not ignore known customs or practice of the Bar or of a particular
Court, even when the law permits, without giving timely notice to the opposing
counsel. As far as possible, important agreements, affecting the rights of clients,
should be reduced to writing; but it is dishonorable to avoid performance of
an agreement fairly made because it is not reduced to writing, as required by
rules of Court.
Professional Advocacy Other Than Before Courts. A lawyer openly, and
in his true character may render professional services before legislative or
other bodies, regarding proposed legislation and in advocacy of claims before
departments of government, upon the same principles of ethics which justify
his appearance before the Courts; but it is unprofessional for a lawyer so engaged
to conceal his attorneyship, or to employ secret personal solicitations, or
to use means other than those addressed to the reason and understanding, to
Advertising, Direct or Indirect. It is unprofessional to solicit professional
employment by circulars, advertisements, through touters or by personal communications
or interviews not warranted by personal relations. Indirect advertisements for
professional employment such as furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments,
or procuring his photograph to be published in connection with causes in which
the lawyer has been or is engaged or concerning the manner of their conduct,
the magnitude of the interest involved, the importance of the lawyer's position,
and all other like self-laudation, offend the traditions and lower the tone
of our profession and are reprehensible; but the customary use of simple professional
cards is not improper.
Publication in reputable law lists in a manner consistent with the standards
of conduct imposed by these canons of brief biographical and informative data
is permissible. Such data must not be misleading and may include only a statement
of the lawyer's name and the names of his professional associates; addresses,
telephone numbers, cable addresses; branches of the profession practiced; date
and place of birth and admission to the bar; schools attended; with dates of
graduation, degrees and other educational distinctions; public or quasi-public
offices; posts of honor; legal authorships; legal teaching positions; memberships
and offices in bar associations and committees thereof, in legal and scientific
societies and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in other reputable law
lists; the names and addresses of references; and, with their written consent,
the names of clients regularly represented. A certificate of compliance with
the Rules and Standards issued by the Standing Committee on Law Lists may be
treated as evidence that such list is reputable.
It is not improper for a lawyer who is admitted to practice as a proctor in
admiralty to use that designation on his letterhead or shingle or for a lawyer
who has complied with the statutory requirements of admission to practice before
the patent office, to so use the designation "patent attorney" or
"patent lawyer" or "trademark attorney" or "trademark
lawyer" or any combination of those terms.
Stirring Up Litigation, Directly or Through Agents. It is unprofessional
for a lawyer to volunteer advice to bring a lawsuit, except in rare cases where
ties of blood, relationship or trust make it his duty to do so. Stirring up
strife and litigation is not only unprofessional, but it is indictable at common
law. It is disreputable to hunt up defects in titles or other causes of action
and inform thereof in order to be employed to bring suit or collect judgment,
or to breed litigation by seeking out those with claims for personal injuries
or those having any other grounds of action in order to secure them as clients,
or to employ agents or runners for like purposes, or to pay or reward, directly
or indirectly, those who bring or influence the bringing of such cases to his
office, or to remunerate policemen, court or prison officials, physicians, hospital
attachés or others who may succeed, under the guise of giving disinterested
friendly advice, in influencing the criminal, the sick and the injured, the
ignorant or others, to seek his professional services. A duty to the public
and to the profession devolves upon every member of the Bar having knowledge
of such practices upon the part of any practitioner immediately to inform thereof,
to the end that the offender may be disbarred.
Upholding the Honor of the Profession. Lawyers should expose without
fear of favor before the proper tribunals corrupt or dishonest conduct in the
profession, and should accept without hesitation employment against a member
of the Bar who has wronged his client. The counsel upon the trial of a cause
in which perjury has been committed owe it to the profession and to the public
to bring the matter to the knowledge of the prosecuting authorities. The lawyer
should aid in guarding the Bar against the admission to the profession of candidates
unfit or unqualified because deficient in either moral character or education.
He should strive at all times to uphold the honor and to maintain the dignity
of the profession and to improve not only the law but the administration of
Justifiable and Unjustifiable Litigations. The lawyer must decline
to conduct a civil cause or to make a defense when convinced that it is intended
merely to harass or to injure the opposite party or to work oppression or wrong.
But otherwise it is his right, and, having accepted retainer, it becomes his
duty to insist upon the judgment of the Court as to the legal merits of his
client's claim. His appearance in Court should be deemed equivalent to an assertion
on his honor that in his opinion his client's case is one proper for judicial
Responsibility for Litigation. No lawyer is obliged to act either as
adviser or advocate for every person who may wish to become his client. He has
the right to decline employment. Every lawyer upon his own responsibility must
decide what employment he will accept as counsel, what causes he will bring
into Court for plaintiffs, what cases he will contest in Court for defendants.
The responsibility for advising as to questionable transactions, for bringing
questionable suits, for urging questionable defenses, is the lawyer's responsibility.
He cannot escape it by urging as an excuse that he is only following his client's
Lawyers Duty in Its Last Analysis. No client, corporate or individual,
however powerful, nor any cause, civil or political, however important, is entitled
to receive nor should any lawyer render any service or advice involving disloyalty
to the law whose ministers we are, or disrespect of the judicial office, which
we are bound to uphold, or corruption of any person or persons exercising a
public office or private trust, or deception or betrayal of the public. When
rendering any such improper service or advice, the lawyer invites and merits
stern and just condemnation. Correspondingly, he advances the honor of his profession
and the best interests of his client when he renders service or gives advice
tending to impress upon the client and his undertaking exact compliance with
the strictest principles of moral law. He must also observe and advise his client
to observe the statute law, though until a statute shall have been construed
and interpreted by competent adjudication, he is free and is entitled to advise
as to its validity and as to what he conscientiously believes to be its just
meaning and extent. But above all a lawyer will find his highest honor in a
deserved reputation for fidelity to private trust and to public duty, as an
honest man and as a patriotic and loyal citizen.
Partnerships-Names. Partnerships among lawyers for the practice of their
profession are very common and are not to be condemned. In the formation of
partnerships and the use of partnership names care should be taken not to violate
any law, custom, or rule of court locally applicable. Where partnerships are
formed between lawyers who are not all admitted to practice in the courts of
the state, care should be taken to avoid any misleading name or representation
which would create a false impression as to the professional position or privileges
of the member not locally admitted. In the formation of partnerships for the
practice of law, no person should be admitted or held out as a practitioner
or member who is not a member of the legal profession duly authorized to practice,
and amenable to professional discipline. In the selection and use of a firm
name, no false, misleading, assumed or trade name should be used. The continued
use of the name of a deceased or former partner, when permissible by local custom,
is not unethical, but care should be taken that no imposition or deception is
practiced through this use. When a member of the firm, on becoming a judge,
is precluded from practicing law, his name should not be continued in the firm
Partnerships between lawyers and members of other professions or non-professional
persons should not be formed or permitted where any part of the partnership's
employment consists of the practice of law.
Division of Fees. No division of fees for legal services is proper,
except with another lawyer, based upon a division of service or responsibility.
Intermediaries. The professional services of a lawyer should not be
controlled or exploited by any lay agency, personal or corporate, which intervenes
between client and lawyer. A lawyer's responsibilities and qualifications are
individual. He should avoid all relations which direct the performance of his
duties by or in the interest of such intermediary. A lawyer's relation to his
client should be personal, and the responsibility should be direct to the client.
Charitable societies rendering aid to the indigents are not deemed such intermediaries.
A lawyer may accept employment from any organization, such as an association,
club or trade organization, to render legal services in any matter in which
the organization, as an entity, is interested, but this employment should not
include the rendering of legal services to the members of such an organization
in respect to their individual affairs.
Retirement from Judicial Position or Public Employment. A lawyer should
not accept employment as an advocate in any matter upon the merits of which
he has previously acted in a judicial capacity.
A lawyer, having once held public office or having been in the public employ,
should not after his retirement accept employment in connection with any matter
which he has investigated or passed upon while in such office or employ.
Confidences of a Client. It is the duty of a lawyer to preserve his
clients confidences. This duty outlasts the lawyer's employment, and extends
as well to his employees; and neither of them should accept employment which
involves or may involve the disclosure or use of these confidences, either
for the private advantage of the lawyer of his employees or to the disadvantage
of the client, without his knowledge and consent, and even though there are
other available sources of such information. A lawyer should not continue employment
when he discovers that this obligation prevents the performance of his full
duty to his former or to his new client.
If a lawyer is accused by his client, he is not precluded from disclosing the
truth in respect to the accusation. The announced intention of a client to commit
a crime is not included within the confidences which he is bound to respect.
He may properly make such disclosures as may be necessary to prevent the act
or protect those against whom it is threatened.
Compensation, Commissions and Rebates. A lawyer should accept no compensation,
commissions, rebates or other advantages from others without the knowledge and
consent of his client after full disclosure.
Witnesses. A lawyer may properly interview any witness or prospective
witness for the opposing side in any civil or criminal action without the consent
of opposing counsel or party. In doing so, however, he should scrupulously avoid
any suggestion calculated to induce the witness to suppress or deviate from the
truth, or in any degree to affect his free and untrammeled conduct when appearing
at the trial or on the witness stand.
Newspapers. A lawyer may with propriety write articles for publications
in which he gives information upon the law; but he should not accept employment
from such publications to advise inquirers in respect to their individual rights.
Discovery of Imposition and Deception. When a lawyer discovers that
some fraud or deception has been practiced, which has unjustly imposed upon
the court or a party, he should endeavor to rectify it; at first by advising
his client, and if his client refuses to forego the advantage thus unjustly
gained, he should promptly inform the injured person or his counsel, so that
they may take appropriate steps.
Expenses of Litigation. A lawyer may not properly agree with a client
that the lawyer shall pay or bear the expenses of litigation; he may in good
faith advance expenses as a matter of convenience, but subject to reimbursement.
Approved Law Lists. It shall be improper for a lawyer to permit his
name to be published in a law list the conduct, management or contents of which
are calculated or likely to deceive or injure the public or the profession,
or to lower the dignity or standing of the profession.
Withdrawal From Employment as Attorney or Counsel. The right of an attorney
or counsel to withdraw from employment, once assumed, arises only from good
cause. Even the desire or consent of the client is not always sufficient. The
lawyer should not throw up the unfinished task to the detriment of his client
except for reasons of honor or self-respect. If the client insists upon an unjust
or immoral course in the conduct of his case, or if he persists over the attorney's
remonstrance in presenting frivolous defenses, or if he deliberately disregards
an agreement or obligation as to fees or expenses, the lawyer may be warranted
in withdrawing on due notice to the client, allowing him time to employ another
lawyer. So also when a lawyer discovers that his client has no case and the
client is determined to continue it; or even if the lawyer finds himself incapable
of conducting the case effectively. Sundry other instances may arise in which
withdrawal is to be justified. Upon withdrawing from a case after a retainer
has been paid, the attorney should refund such part of the retainer as has not
been clearly earned.
Specialists. The canons of the American Bar Association apply to all
branches of the legal profession; specialists in particular branches are not
to be considered as exempt from the application of these principles.
Notice to Local Lawyers. A lawyer available to act as an associate of
other lawyers in a particular branch of the law or legal service may send to
local lawyers only and publish in his local legal journal, a brief and dignified
announcement of his availability to serve other lawyers in connection therewith.
The announcement should be in a form which does not constitute a statement or
representation of special experience or expertness.
Aiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law. No lawyer shall permit
his professional services, or his name, to be used in aid of, or to make possible,
the unauthorized practice of law by any lay agency, personal or corporate.
Oath of Admission. The general principles which should ever control
the lawyer in the practice of his profession are clearly set forth in the following
Oath of Admission to the Bar, formulated upon that in use in the State of Washington,
and which conforms in its main outlines to the "duties" of lawyers
as defined by statutory enactments in that and many other States of the Union
duties which they are sworn on admission to obey and for the willful violation
of which disbarment is provided:
I do solemnly swear:
I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of
the State of ......................
I will maintain the respect due to Courts of Justice and judicial officers;
I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to
me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable
under the law of the land;
I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such
means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead
the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;
I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client,
and will accept no compensation in connection with his business except from
him or with his knowledge and approval;
I will abstain from all offensive personality, and advance no fact prejudicial
to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice
of the cause with which I am charged;
I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of
the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any man's cause for lucre or malice.
So help me God.
The American Bar Association commends this form of oath for adoption by the
proper authorities in all the States and Territories.
The Catholic Hospital Association of the United States and Canada has formulated
a set of directives for Catholic hospitals that offer a comprehensive view of
the moral principles which affect the medical and nursing professions. They
were drafted after years of study and consultation and grew out of the recognized
status of church related institutions whose immediate purpose is to assist patients
in their physical disabilities, regardless of race, color or creed. Yet because
a hospital is under Catholic auspices its medical and nursing staffs are agreed
to respect the ethical and religious ideals for which the institution stands
and, except for which, there would be no special need for private hospitals
General norms are less satisfactory than specific ones, but in hospital practice
there are so many factors to change a situation and its moral implications that
often the only norms possible are general. Yet not all the standards of the
Catholic Hospital Association are generic; many are both specific and detailed,
especially where nothing less than perfect clarity would insure the proper understanding
of what a doctor or nurse should do for his patient or how the hospital should
deal with physicians and their aids.
In the original draft of directives, each item is numbered, and each section
is separately classified. As might be expected the directives are almost entirely
concerned with the moral and religious aspects of hospital care, and only incidentally
with medical efficiency or the mechanics of human therapy. Nevertheless it is
assumed that where the ethical dimensions are respected, the medical will also
be advanced, not only because the two are closely related but because, as experience
shows, there is a close correlation between effective therapy and moral and
religious values. Such a thing as "atmosphere" in a hospital is not
purely subjective. It has much to do with helping patients recover health or
prepare themselves for entrance into eternity, quite apart from the objective
importance of fidelity to the natural law demanded of the administration of
a church affiliated hospital.
Responsibility, Directives and Doubts. Catholic hospitals exist to render
medical and spiritual care to the sick. The patient adequately considered, and
inclusive of his spiritual status and his claim to the helps of the Catholic
religion, is the primary concern of those entrusted with the management of Catholic
hospitals. Trustees and administrators of Catholic hospitals understand that
this responsibility extends to every patient and that it is seriously binding
in conscience. A partial statement of this basic obligation is contained in
these Ethical and Religious Directives. All who associate themselves with a
Catholic hospital, and particularly the members of the medical and nursing staffs,
must understand the moral and religious obligations binding on those responsible
for the management and operation of the hospital and must realize that they
are allowed to perform only such acts and to carry out only such procedures
as will enable the owners and administrators to fulfill their obligations.
The principles underlying or expressed in these Directives are not subject
to change. But in the application of principles the Directives can and should
grow and change as theological investigation and the progress of medical science
open up new problems or throw new light on old ones.
As now formulated, the Directives prohibit only those procedures which, according
to present knowledge of facts, seem certainly wrong. In questions legitimately
debated by theologians, liberty is left to physicians to follow the opinions
which seem to them more in conformity with the principles of sound medicine.
Cases can arise in which the morality of some procedure is doubtful, either
because the Directives do not seem to cover the case or because their application
is not clear. In such cases, consultation is obligatory, if possible; and the
hospital reserves the right to insist on this and to choose or to approve the
consultants. In urgent cases that allow no time for consultation, the physician
in charge should do what seems most proper to his own conscience. Having done
what he honestly judges best in such an emergency, the physician has no just
cause for anxiety of conscience; but he should refer the matter to the hospital
authorities to obtain guidance for future emergencies of the same nature.
General Ethical Directives. These Ethical Directives concern all patients,
regardless of religion, and they must be observed by all physicians, nurses,
and others who work in the hospital.
Even the procedures listed in this section as permissible require the consent,
at least reasonably presumed, of the patient or his guardians. This condition
is to be understood in all cases.
Everyone has the right and the duty to prepare for the solemn moment of death.
Unless it is clear, therefore, that a dying patient is already well-prepared
for death as regards both temporal and spiritual affairs, it is the physician's
duty to inform him of his critical condition or to have some other responsible
person impart this information.
Adequate consultation is required, not only when there is doubt concerning
the morality of some procedure (as stated above), but also with regard to all
procedures involving serious consequences, even though such procedures are listed
here as permissible. The hospital reserves the right to insist on such consultation.
The physician is required to state definitely to the supervisor of the department
concerned the nature of the operation he intends to perform or of the treatment
he intends to give in the hospital.
All structures or parts of organs removed from patients must be sent at once
and in their entirety to the pathologist for his examination and report. If
the physician requests it, the specimens will be returned to him after examination.
In the event of an operation for the removal of a diseased organ containing
a living fetus, the fetus should be extracted and baptized before the excised
organ is sent to the pathologist.
The obligation of professional secrecy must be carefully fulfilled not only
as regards the information on the patients' charts and records but also as regards
confidential matters learned in the exercise of professional duties. Moreover,
the charts and records must be duly safeguarded against inspection by those
who have no right to see them.
Serious Risk to Life or its Destruction. The direct killing of any innocent
person, even at his own request, is always morally wrong. Any procedure whose
sole immediate effect is the death of a human being is a direct killing.
Risk to life and even the indirect taking of life are morally justifiable for
proportionate reasons. Life is taken indirectly when death is the unavoidable
accompaniment or result of a procedure which is immediately directed to the
attainment of some other purpose, e.g., to the removal of a diseased organ.
Every unborn child must be regarded as a human person, with all the rights
of a human person, from the moment of conception.
Direct abortion is never permitted, even when the ultimate purpose is to save
the life of the mother. No condition of pregnancy constitutes an exception to
this prohibition. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination
of pregnancy before viability is a direct abortion.
Operations, treatments, and medications during pregnancy which have for their
immediate purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition
of the mother are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the fetus
is viable, even though they indirectly cause an abortion.
Regarding the treatment of hemorrhage during pregnancy and before the fetus
is viable: Procedures that are primarily designed to empty the uterus of a living
fetus still attached to the mother are not permitted; procedures primarily designed
to stop hemorrhage (as distinguished from those designed precisely to expel
the living and attached fetus) are permitted insofar as necessary, even to the
extent of risking an abortion. In this case the abortion would be indirect.
Cesarean section for the removal of a viable fetus is permitted, even with
some risk to the life of the mother, when necessary for successful delivery.
It is likewise permitted, even with some risk for the child, when necessary
for the safety of the mother.
Cranial and other operations for the destruction of fetal life are forbidden.
Procedures designed to preserve fetal life (e.g., aspiration for hydrocephalus)
are permitted even before delivery when such procedures are medically indicated.
In extrauterine pregnancy the affected part of the mother (e.g., an ovary or
Fallopian tube) may be removed, even though the life of the fetus is thus indirectly
terminated, provided the operation cannot be postponed without notably increasing
the danger to the mother.
Euthanasia ("mercy killing") in all its forms is forbidden.
The failure to supply the ordinary means of preserving life is equivalent to
It is not euthanasia to give a dying person sedatives merely for the alleviation
of pain, even to the extent of depriving the patient of the use of sense and
reason, when this extreme measure is judged necessary. Such sedatives should
not be given before the patient is properly prepared for death (in the case
of a Catholic, this means the reception of the Last Sacraments); nor should
they be given to patients who are able and willing to endure their sufferings
for spiritual motives.
Hysterectomy, in the presence of pregnancy and even before viability, is permitted
when directed to the removal of maternal pathology which is distinct from the
pregnancy and which is of such a serious nature that the operation cannot be
safely postponed until the fetus is viable.
Post-mortem examinations must not be begun until real death is morally certain.
The main point here is that the physician should be reasonably certain that
the subject is not merely apparently dead before he starts the post-mortem.
More precise information concerning the moment of real death is desirable. Lacking
such information theologians usually allow the following intervals for the conditional
administration of the sacraments: one-half hour to one hour, in the case of
death after a lingering illness; and two or even more hours, in the case of
For a very serious reason labor may be induced immediately after the fetus
is viable. In a properly equipped hospital the fetus may sometimes be considered
viable after 26 weeks (6 calendar months); otherwise, 28 weeks are required.
In all cases in which the presence of pregnancy would render some procedure
illicit (e.g. curettage), the physician must make use of such pregnancy tests
and consultation as may be needed in order to be reasonably certain that the
patient is not pregnant.
Radiation therapy of the mother's reproductive organs is permitted during pregnancy
only when necessary to suppress a dangerous pathological condition.
Reproductive Organs and Functions. The subsequent Ethical Directives
suppose that there is no special risk to life, either for the patient or in
the case of a pregnant woman for a fetus; otherwise the principles previously
given must be applied.
The unnatural use of the sex faculty (e.g., masturbation) is never permitted,
even for a laudable purpose.
Continence, either periodic or continuous, is the only form of birth control
not in itself morally objectionable.
Procedures that induce sterility, whether permanent or temporary, are permitted
a) they are immediately directed to the cure, diminution, or prevention of
a serious pathological condition;
b) a simpler treatment is not reasonably available; and
c) the sterility itself is an unintended and, in the circumstances, an unavoidable
Castration, surgical or otherwise, is permitted when required for the removal
or diminution of a serious pathological condition, even in other organs. Hence:
oophorectomy or irradiation of the ovaries may be allowed in treating carcinoma
of the breast and metastasis therefrom; and orchidectomy is permitted in the
treatment of carcinoma of the prostate. In all cases the procedure least harmful
to the reproductive organs should be used, if equally effective with other procedures.
All operations, treatments, and devices designed to render conception impossible
are morally objectionable. Advising or otherwise encouraging contraceptive practices
is not permitted. Continence is not contraception. A physician is entitled to
advise and explain the practice of periodic continence to those who have need
of such knowledge.
Hysterectomy is permitted when it is sincerely judged to be the only effective
remedy for prolapse of the uterus, or when it is a necessary means of removing
some other serious pathology.
Hysterectomy is not permitted as a routine procedure after any definite number
of cesarean sections. In these cases the pathology of each patient must be considered
individually; and care must be had that hysterectomy is not performed as a merely
Even after the childbearing function has ceased, hysterectomy is still a mutilation,
and it must not be performed unless sound medical reasons call for it.
If procedures designed to correct uterine malpositions induce sterility, the
conditions given in the above directive concerning sterility must be fulfilled;
if they do not induce sterility the principle of proportionate good is to be
Sterility tests involving the procurement of the male specimen by masturbation
or unnatural intercourse are morally objectionable.
The use of artificial means to enable the natural marital act to be fertile
(e.g., the cervical spoon) is permitted. No other form of artificial insemination
is in accord with the divine plan for human procreation. Especially objectionable
are donor insemination and unnatural methods of obtaining semen.
Special Procedures. Any procedure harmful to the patient is morally
justified only insofar as it is designed to produce a proportionate good.
Ordinarily the "proportionate good" that justifies a directly mutilating
procedure must be the welfare of the patient himself. However, such things as
blood transfusions and skin grafts are permitted for the good of others. Whether
this principle of "helping the neighbor" can justify organic transplantation
is now a matter of discussion. Physicians are asked to present practical cases
for solution, if such cases exist.
The removal of an apparently healthy appendix while the abdomen is open for
some other reason may be allowed at the discretion of the physician.
Experimentation on patients without due consent and not for the benefit of
the patients themselves is morally objectionable. Even when experimentation
is for the genuine good of the patient, the physician must have the consent,
at least reasonably presumed, of the patient or his legitimate guardian.
Ghost surgery, which implies the calculated deception of the patient as to
the identity of the operating surgeon is morally objectionable.
Lobotomy and similar operations are morally justifiable when medically indicated
as the proper treatment of serious mental illness or of intractable pain. In
each case the welfare of the patient himself, considered as a person, must be
the determining factor. These operations are not justifiable when less extreme
remedies are reasonably available or in cases in which the probability of harm
to the patient outweighs the hope of benefit for him.
The use of narcosis or hypnosis for the cure of mental illness is permissible
with the consent at least reasonably presumed of the patient, provided due precautions
are taken to protect the patient and the hospital from harmful effects, and
provided the patient's right to secrecy is duly safeguarded.
There is no objection on principle and in general to psychoanalysis of any
other form of psychotherapy. The psychiatrists and psychotherapists, however,
must observe the cautions dictated by sound morality, such as: avoiding the
error of pan-sexualism; never counseling even material sin; respecting secrets
that the patient is not permitted to reveal; avoiding the disproportionate risk
of moral dangers.
Shock-therapy is permitted when medically indicated.
Unnecessary procedures, whether diagnostic or therapeutic, are morally objectionable.
A procedure is unnecessary when no proportionate reason requires it for the
welfare of the patient; a fortiori unnecessary is any procedure that
is contraindicated by sound medical standards. This directive applies especially,
but not exclusively, to unnecessary surgery.
The Religious Care of Patients. Except in cases of emergency (i.e.,
danger of death), all requests for baptism made by adults or for infants should
be referred to the chaplain of the hospital, who will see that the prescriptions
of canon law are observed.
Even cases of emergency should be referred to the chaplain or to some other
priest if one is available. If a priest is not available, anyone having the
use of reason can and should baptize.
The ordinary method of conferring emergency baptism is as follows: Water is
poured on the head in such a way that it will flow on the skin, and not merely
on the hair; and while the water is being poured these words are pronounced:
I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The water will more easily flow on the skin if it is poured on the forehead.
The same person who pours the water should pronounce the words.
When emergency baptism is conferred, the fact should be noted on the patient's
chart, and the chaplain should be notified as soon as possible so that he can
properly record it.
It is the mind of the Church that the sick should have the widest possible
liberty to receive the sacraments frequently. The generous cooperation of the
entire hospital staff and personnel is requested for this purpose.
While providing the sick abundant opportunity to receive Holy Communion, there
should be no interference with the perfect freedom of the faithful according
to the mind of the Church to communicate or not to communicate; and moreover
there should be no pressure exerted that might lead to sacrilegious Communions.
Those in danger of death are not obliged to keep the Eucharistic fast. Regarding
other privileges available to the sick and hospital personnel, the chaplain
or some other priest should be consulted.
Sufficient privacy should be provided for confession in wards and semi-private
rooms, or the patient moved elsewhere for confession, if this is possible.
When possible, one who is critically ill should receive Holy Viaticum and extreme
unction while in full possession of his rational faculties. The chaplain must,
therefore, be notified as soon as an illness is diagnosed as critical.
While avoiding odious proselytism, we must not be indifferent to the spiritual
needs and desires of non-Catholics; and everything consonant with our principles
must be done for them. In particular, when a non-Catholic patient asks to have
his minister or rabbi called this request should be honored.
Major parts of the body should be buried in a cemetery when it is reasonably
possible to do so. Moreover, the members of Catholics should, if possible, be
buried in blessed ground. When burial is not reasonably possible, the burning
of such members is permissible.
The normal manner of disposing of a dead fetus, regardless of the degree of
maturity, is suitable burial. A fetus may be burned only if sanitation or some
similarly serious reason requires it. In exceptional cases, there is no objection
to retaining a fetus for laboratory study and observation; but it should not
be preserved in its membranes unless it is so obviously dead that baptism would
certainly be of no avail.
It is imperative that all who are concerned with the disposal of a fetus should
know and observe pertinent prescriptions of civil law. If there seems to be
a conflict between the provisions of civil law and the instructions given here
the matter should be referred to the hospital authorities for clarification.
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