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Conscience is at the heart of organisational ethics

9 August 2016 | General Interest

Sound organisational judgement lies within the moral compass of every individual argues BBI’s Dean of Studies, Dr Dan Fleming, in his latest publication on ethics for Catholic Heath Australia’s Code of Ethical Standards Supplementary Papers. These papers gather together insights from Australia’s leading Catholic ethicists, who together reflect on issues arising in the current context of healthcare.

Dr Dan Fleming

Examining conscience through the lens of Catholic teaching catholicity, Dr Fleming says where organisations deliberately reflect on conscience and the implications of it, they are empowered to build an ethical ambience throughout their whole organisation.

“Ethics tends to focus on particular moral actions, especially in healthcare. These are important, but ethics is much larger than that. Drawing conscience into the conversation in an organisational context allows us to see that all aspects of our organisation relate to ethics: the medical decisions a doctor makes as well as the manner in which a CEO of a hospital leads their team.”

“There are three dimensions of ethics that are implicit when we talk about conscience: our experience of a call to moral responsibility; our search for an ethical answer to that call; and, lastly, making decisions that require courage, because often the right decision may not be the easiest path to resolution,” Dr Fleming said.

Drawing from the Catholic tradition, Dr Fleming says that this process applies equally to individuals and organisations. In the context of organisations, conscience should breathe life into a morality that is courageous, that can challenge, lead and define people both within the organisation and outside of it.

This is important, Dr Fleming argues, because “Ethics is not something that we choose – it chooses us. The question of conscience is not “am I responsible” but instead “how will I respond?” This changes everything – ethics can’t be sidelined in favour of other concerns. It is fundamental to whom we are: to be human is to experience the call to responsibility. “To be a leader in an organisation is to reflect on the implications of this within the organisational context” says Dr Fleming “how can my whole organisation exercise ethical responsibility?”

“When we challenge our sensibilities in this way we often encounter recurring ethical decisions but with renewed eyes.”

Working in small teams right through to large multinational organisations, Dr Fleming says the decisions made at the coal face of businesses often have implications throughout the entire organisation, and outside of it as well.

“When we apprehend responsibility or take ownership of a situation we notice each moment of our lives is filled with calls to be responsible.

“Seeking and finding the answer does not mark the end of the process, because we must judge how we respond and then commit ourselves to that judgement and all that it entails.

“Ultimately, somewhere deep in all of our hearts, we are aware of a call to responsibility, and this forces us to grapple with the questions of who we are, where our convictions lie and whether we are willing to take responsibility for the decisions we make for ourselves and the companies we represent.”

To read more about the Code of Ethical Standards visit www.cha.org.au

BBI in partnership with Catholic Health Australia, leads an online ethics program which explores The Code of Ethical Standards in Health and Aged Care in Australia entitled Decoding the Code.

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