Page 0055


Different uses of the term "ethics"

"Ethics" concerns ideas of right and wrong, what is good and bad, and how people ought and ought not to behave,

both generally and in particular cases. The term ethics is used in at least four different but related ways, to describe:

 particular patterns or ways of life - as in, say, Buddhist ethics or Christian ethics

 sets of rules or guidelines for good, right or correct behaviour - as in professional codes of ethics or general

ethical guidance, such as the Ten Commandments, or the Declaration of Helsinki, for medical research (World

Medical Association, 1964, last amended 2008)

 general, theoretical inquiry into what it means to live a good life and do the right things

 exploration of how these ideas translate into practice when people are faced with dilemmas or decisions about

what should (and should not) be done in specific situations.

In the last two senses, the term is being used as a verb - to "do" ethics.

Ethics cf. morality

Morality (from the Latin mores, meaning customs, manners) also encompasses questions of right and wrong,

what ought and ought not to be done. Nowadays, the terms "ethical" and "moral" are frequently used

interchangeably, both in everyday conversation and in philosophical literature. Nevertheless, ethics is often the

preferred term in a professional context. Codes of principles for professional conduct are usually described as

codes of ethics, not codes of morals:

"Anyone can be described as immoral", but only doctors, lawyers, scientists and "others who fail to live up to

publicly professed obligations tend to be called "unethical"." (Boyd, 1997a)

This particular perspective might appear to encourage a narrow view of ethics, but the subject is not limited to

professional practice - it includes all aspects of (everyday) morality. Moreover, professional codes of practice

do not provide an escape from the need to make moral judgements, because they cannot cover all circumstances

and are open to interpretation in different contexts.

Ethics cf. law

Behaving ethically (or being moral) "involves more than keeping on the right side of the law" (Boyd, 1997b). Laws

lay down certain rules, or boundaries, which must not be breached; yet within these boundaries there can be

considerable room for judgement about what is right and what is wrong.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (as amended) is not an easy-to-follow code of "dos and don"ts" in

animal use. Rather, it sets out a framework within which ethical judgements must be made about what is and is

not acceptable. Guidance is provided (Home Office 2014), but it is recognised that this is not static and will evolve

alongside advances in both scientific and moral understanding.

Identifying ethical questions

Ethical issues are most often encountered when there are difficult choices to be made about which courses of

action ought to be taken in particular situations. We enter the realm of ethics when we make a move from

considering what can be done (i.e. what is possible) in a given situation, to considering what ought to or should

be done in that situation. For example, whether or not a particular research project that can provide knowledge

to benefit humans or other animals, but which will involve causing pain, distress or suffering to animals, ought to

go ahead.


What is - or are - ethics?

ERBs consider, and provide advice and support, on "ethical" matters. To provide some background to the

use of "ethics" terminology, this Appendix explores what is meant by "doing ethics" in practice and the

benefits this can bring.


  1. Page 0001
  2. Page 0002
  3. Page 0003
  4. Page 0004
  5. Page 0005
  6. Page 0006
  7. Page 0007
  8. Page 0008
  9. Page 0009
  10. Page 0010
  11. Page 0011
  12. Page 0012
  13. Page 0013
  14. Page 0014
  15. Page 0015
  16. Page 0016
  17. Page 0017
  18. Page 0018
  19. Page 0019
  20. Page 0020
  21. Page 0021
  22. Page 0022
  23. Page 0023
  24. Page 0024
  25. Page 0025
  26. Page 0026
  27. Page 0027
  28. Page 0028
  29. Page 0029
  30. Page 0030
  31. Page 0031
  32. Page 0032
  33. Page 0033
  34. Page 0034
  35. Page 0035
  36. Page 0036
  37. Page 0037
  38. Page 0038
  39. Page 0039
  40. Page 0040
  41. Page 0041
  42. Page 0042
  43. Page 0043
  44. Page 0044
  45. Page 0045
  46. Page 0046
  47. Page 0047
  48. Page 0048
  49. Page 0049
  50. Page 0050
  51. Page 0051
  52. Page 0052
  53. Page 0053
  54. Page 0054
  55. Page 0055
  56. Page 0056
  57. Page 0057
  58. Page 0058
  59. Page 0059
  60. Page 0060
  61. Page 0061
  62. Page 0062
  63. Page 0063
  64. Page 0064