Personal Responsibility: the ability to connect choices, actions and consequences to ethical decision-making

Ethics: a set of moral principles that guides ones behavior

Morality: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior

Below are three different ethical dilemmas. Each scenario requires that a person make a choice based on his or her ethical or moral beliefs.

The Trolley Problem

The brakes of the train you are driving have just failed. There are five people on the track ahead of the train. There is no way that they can get off the track before the train hits them. The track has a siding leading off to the right, and you can pull a lever to direct the train onto it. Unfortunately, there is one person stuck on the siding. You can turn the train, killing one person, or you can allow the train to continue onwards, killing five people. What do you do?

The Heinz Dilemma

Someone close to you is sick and near death. There is one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It is a form of radium that a scientist in town had recently discovered. The scientist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. You cannot afford the medicine. You explain to the druggist that your loved one is dying and ask him to sell it cheaper or let you pay later. But the scientist says, “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” You know that you could easily break into the drug store and steal the medicine. What do you do?

Workplace Ethics

You work for a company that has a firm policy regarding cases of theft of company property. Used company equipment is on a table to be sold by auction each month. You see a valued employee who is two months from retirement slip an electric drill from the table and put it in his car before the day of the sale. What do you do? (Adapted from

Choose one (just one!) of the ethical dilemmas above and answer the questions below. Each question should be answered in a paragraph between 100 – 200 words in length. Combine all three paragraphs into a single document and click on the “Personal Responsibility” link above to submit.

1. Discuss the different choices available to you in this dilemma. What ethical or moral viewpoint does each choice encapsulate or represent?

2. Explain the potential outcomes for each of the different choices you discussed in question #1.

3. What choice would you make? Why would you make that choice? Explain your answer in several sentences, making sure to highlight the reasons for your choice.

Instructions for Adding the Personal Responsibility Assessment to Your Course

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