ETHC 445 ETHICS PAPER WEEK 1 Principles of Ethics

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The Ethical Dilemma of a Nine-Year-Old Child

Imagine a child who was abandoned by her drug-addicted parents and then found a new, loving home with her adoptive parents. However, due to legal decisions, she is now being forced to leave her happy life behind and move back in with her biological parents. At just nine years old, this child is being compelled to live with individuals who previously discarded her. Is this truly the right ethical decision to make? This dilemma is unfortunately all too common in our society today, where underage individuals are often deprived of choice and are subjected to orders that dictate how they should live their lives.

There are three primary schools of ethics: virtue ethics, consequentialist ethics, and deontological ethics (Dobrin, 2012). The two most applicable schools for solving the ethical dilemma of the nine-year-old child would be consequentialist and deontological ethics. Consequentialist ethics would evaluate the consequences of the decision, considering whether it harms or benefits anyone (Dobrin, 2012). Deontological ethics would focus on whether the decision upholds the moral principles (Dobrin, 2012).

ETHC 445 ETHICS PAPER WEEK 1 Principles of Ethics

Despite both schools aiming for a good outcome, they have distinct approaches. Deontological ethics are rigid, requiring individuals to follow moral principles, regardless of whether they are good or bad (Seton Hall, 2016). Consequentialist ethics are more flexible and adaptable, responding to each situation or dilemma (Seton Hall, 2016). The main difference between the two can be summarized in John Rawls’ statement: “the distinction is between the right and the good: under deontology, what actions are right and what things are good are at least partially independent, whereas under consequentialism, an act is right if, and only if, it maximizes the good” (Seton Hall, 2016).

Deontological and consequentialist ethics are fundamentally different in their principles and can be difficult to apply to real-life situations. However, in dire situations where survival is at stake, our instincts may take over and override ethical considerations. For example, if a person is in a life-threatening situation, they may act to survive without considering the moral principles or consequences of their actions. This may lead to actions that are considered unethical in calmer situations. However, in more controlled situations where there is time to analyze and think before acting, these ethics can play a more significant role. Therefore, the usefulness of these ethics depends on the situation and context in which they are applied.

Aristotle, an influential philosopher in the field of ethics, would hold a different perspective and disagree with both of the proposed solutions to this dilemma. Aristotle’s ethical theory, known as virtue ethics, focuses on the cultivation of virtues such as courage and justice (Kraut, 2001). The dilemmas discussed earlier, on the other hand, revolve around moral principles and consequences, which diverge from Aristotle’s approach. According to Aristotle, the ultimate goal is human well-being, and virtues serve as means to achieve that well-being (Kraut, 2001). In contrast, the solutions I presented emphasize either adherence to moral principles, supporting the court’s decision, or consideration of consequences that favor the child. Therefore, Aristotle would disagree with the proposed solutions based on his virtue ethics framework.

ETHC 445 ETHICS PAPER WEEK 1 Principles of Ethics


In conclusion, determining the ethical nature of the decision in this particular dilemma is challenging. Our societal norms dictate that children are not granted the autonomy to make decisions, and it is the responsibility of adults, who have more life experience, to act in the best interest of the child. However, even the decisions made by adults may not always be wise. Ultimately, it appears that luck and fate play a significant role in the outcome of such situations. It is difficult to predict the future and the specific circumstances the child will face. If she is fortunate, she may have a positive experience with her biological parents who have overcome their addiction and treat her with love and care. However, if luck is not on her side, her parents may relapse, leading to a difficult and challenging life for her. This outcome is beyond our control and depends on her individual fate. As humans, we can only strive to provide the best option by applying ethical considerations. The rest unfolds according to its own course.


Dobrin, A (2012). 3 Approaches to Ethics: Principles, Outcomes and Integrity. Retrieved from

3-approaches-ethics-principles-outcomes-and-integrity.Kraut, R. (2001). Aristotle’s Ethics. Retrieved from

Seton Hall University (2016). Ethics. Retrieved from