A moral dilemma is a situation in which there is no correct answer. This requires one to reason and think through a situation and pick the best course of action. This can be accomplished through the use of a 5-step process for solving moral dilemmas. The steps are as follows, describe the facts, list the relevant moral principles and concerns, list and evaluate possible courses of action, devise a plan of action, and carry out the plan of action (Boss, 2018, p. 66). In addition to solving a moral dilemma, it makes an excellent training tool to improve one’s reasoning ability in the real world (Boss, 2018, p. 66). This essay centers on solving a moral dilemma presented from the textbook using a 5-step process.
Describe the facts. The dilemma centers around being a member of the national guard in which I must evacuate citizens from an area that will be struck by an impending hurricane. During the evacuation, I encounter a family of three who refuses to leave. The mother and father are adamant about riding out the storm, but the child is scared and wants to go with me. In addition, the parent’s reason that they rode out the last storm and will not allow the child to leave.
List relevant moral principles and sentiments. As a member of the national guard, it is my duty to protect and serve the people. In addition, I must follow the orders of those above me. I think it is a choice of the people if they choose to evacuate, and one cannot be forced to leave if they so choose, but this liberty may be withdrawn under emergency situations. In addition, the parents have custody over the child, and one could not simply take a child without the proper legal backing. Another view, however, may be that the parents are not capable of taking care of the child and that they are putting the child in excessive risk by not evacuating. In this hypothetical scenario, this is not the case, but if it were I would consider taking the child as a last resort.
Storm intensity must be considered during an evacuation. It may have been easy for the family to stay for the last storm, but it may have been weaker. In addition, the first storm may have setup conditions that the family is unaware of that would cause this second storm to be deadlier. This could include structural damage to the house or damage to infrastructure. I think it is important to also realize that the state has a job to protect its residents, even if they must, at times, use force. In addition, it may be costlier to the state and other taxpayers to have the family stay behind.
One of the values our country was founded on was freedom, so it may be that the family is able to choose to stay behind. A more collectivist society may have a different viewpoint, in that if it’s good for the whole its good for you, so an individual in that society may be more willing to evacuate. In addition, it is important to weigh the possible risk of death with the ability to freely choose. In today’s society, we are more likely to choose life over freedom because we believe that life is worth more than freedom. If this family lives in a rural area, however, they may feel that freedom is worth more than safety, since safety is the responsibility of the individual. In an urban environment, individuals are less likely to look before crossing the street or have complete faith in emergency services to take care of them. This is less so in a rural area, as people have less access to these services. In addition, safety is usually managed through a top-down approach through systematic procedures or safety equipment, much of which has been invented in the last 70 years to improve job safety. My point behind this is that this family may see safety as their concern, and not the concern of the state, and this may be an important factor for persuading the family to leave.
Devise a plan of action. My plan of action would start with the goal of convincing the family to evacuate with me, assuming that they are mentally healthy. I think this is the best choice of action morally, given that I don’t have a clear handle on the laws or facts surrounding the situation. Clearly, the child is distressed, and it could be used as a strong influence to persuade the parents. I do not believe force is necessary or warranted in this instance, given that freedom to choose is an important factor for Americans and humans in general.
Carry out the plan of action. Carrying out the plan of action would be straightforward, but to ensure success, training in persuasion or debate would be useful. In addition, talking in a non-threatening way and assuring the parents that no harm would come to them from evacuating would be needed.
It is impossible to know all the facts prior to acting. One must use the best judgement possible when choosing a course of action. I draw on my knowledge shadowing a physician in the psychiatric emergency room at western psychiatric. This job entails balancing moral concerns to make the proper choice for the patient while also keeping in mind personal rights. For example, one patient was a danger to both himself and others, but the physician knew it was of utmost importance for the patient to administer himself to the hospital. Force could be used as a last resort, as the patient was a minor, but the physician knew better outcomes would result if the patient was admitted on his own accord. Thankfully, the physician persuaded this patient to admit himself to the hospital to receive the treatment he needed. This incident has influenced me profoundly and has caused me to think critically on what freedom of choice means and why it is so important.
Freedom of choice influenced me significantly in selecting my course of action. In addition, much of what I considered in the moral statement section could be used to aid in influencing the family to evacuate. For example, taking into consideration the family’s beliefs would allow me to appear as a friend who understands them, which would enhance my ability to persuade them to leave. Furthermore, I concluded that the most moral decision was not to take the child as a last resort. Given that the parents are mentally sound, it would be immoral to simply take a child whom they have custody over. Although there is no clear answer to this dilemma, persuading the parents to leave is the most ethically and morally sound decision.
Solving moral dilemmas are complicated as they are not black and white. There is no single course of action that would work, especially given time constraints and mental processing power. In addition, moral concerns may change depending on the situation, such as during an emergency. That’s why it is important for one to practice moral dilemmas by utilizing the 5-step process as outlined in the textbook. Through this process, I analyzed what I would do as a national guard member and outline a plan of action after reviewing the facts and moral concerns. My final conclusion was to persuade the family to leave with the child, as this would preserve freedom of choice and decrease the need to use force.
- Boss, J. (2013). Moral reasoning. In Ethics for life: a text with readings (7th ed., p. 30 to 69). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.