Policy Ethics (W3.MJ)
Lying can be defined either as the act of providing false information or withholding of information. It is unethical to hold back or give misleading information to other people. However, there are circumstances where lies can be regarded as noble. Deceit can be justifiable if it is for the good of the public or when used to resolve a crisis. Nonetheless, there are implications involved with dishonesty to both liars and victims.
Lies in a Crisis
Lies can be just if they are meant to protect oneself from serious threats to liberty and the body. A lie is acceptable if it is the last available alternative to save the life of oneself or that of another person. Ensuring personal safety is much more beneficial than the safety of other people. A lie overrides truthfulness when there is insufficient time to strategize other alternatives, or when it is the only alternative available to save an innocent person’s life. For example, lying about the whereabouts of a person can be justified if the disclosure of such information will threaten their lives. During times of distress like war, human actions are motivated by self-centered concerns to ensure their survival. Any fabrications made during such times are justified since the lies will not make things worse.
Lies for the Public Good
Lies for the public good are considered right and inevitable by people who are guided by altruism. These people are motivated by the obligation to safeguard the importance and well-being of other people. Liars for the public good in most instances are governments. These lies may present various benefits by protecting the citizens from any harm that could result from knowing the truth. Should the dishonesty be exposed, the liars assume that the victims will be thankful for being sheltered from the truth. Victims, on the other hand, will complain of being denied their right to information. Misleading the nation for the good of the public is contradictory in a democratic system. In cases where noble lies are the only way to safeguard public interests, they should be discussed and consented to by the public. Government officials and other professional should be held accountable for their actions. They are not entitled to lie because of their positions or practices.
Some lies are permissible to ensure the good of the public. Just lies are intended to protect the well-being of peers or clients. However, there are several problems associated with noble lies. The practice of ‘therapeutic privilege’ by doctors is intended to protect patients from the fear and anxiety that will come along with the truth. For instance, a doctor may withhold information from patients regarding their conditions. In an effort to protect peers and clients, noble lies damages the victims’ critical thinking skills. Such lies will only protect the victims’ short-term interests but increases the chances of their future self-destruction. Victims result to making misinformed decisions because they were denied their right to information. They might also unintentionally perform actions that will affect other people.
Intentionally withholding information from patients creates conflicting interests for professionals. For example, a medical physician has ethical obligations to protect patients and provide them with truthful information relating to their status. A noble lie may also result to violation of an individual’s privacy. Some patients entrust their health problems to a specific doctor, and might not be willing to share them with any other person. Without the patient’s approval, the doctor may be forced to involve other professionals to help solve the problem. For example, a patient might be misinformed about the surgeon who will be performing their surgery. Patient-physician relationship is based upon trust, and these deceptive practices are a direct violation to the patient’s privacy.