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An ethical dilemma involves a situation where there is uncertainty regarding what is the proper or right thing to do. This occurs when either of the following two conditions appears involving circumstances that require a resolution:

  • There is a conflict between two, equally valid ethical principles or values.
  • There is a conflict within an ethical principle or value.

Some of the more common ethical values or principles that frame ethical dilemmas include the following:

  • To whom do I have a duty—self, family, friends, workers, investors, consumers, future generation, and so on?
  • How can I minimize the causes of harm—harm that is physical versus economic versus psychological, or harm that is actual versus potential, or harm to many versus harm to a few, or harm that is severe versus ...
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