The past few modules have covered the common morality framework, which is a largely intuitive set of ideas that most people use without really knowing they are doing so. As we have explicated the framework, we have come to know that our society shares a great many of the same kinds of basic values, including that it is unacceptable to kill, cause pain, deprive people of freedom (self-determination) and pleasure, lie, and fail to do one’s duty. Those values are identified as the moral rules. These rules hold true for our society because we want other people to adhere to them and we figure that we had better do the same to keep other people in line.
As we have been discussing, applying the common morality’s rules, harms, and benefits is done using a two-step process: reviewing the facts of the case (Step 1 morally relevant features), and determining whether the potential moral rule violations are publicly allowed by rational, impartial people regardless of whether they would personally take the action or allow the moral rule violation (Step 2 questions). You have reviewed two cases in which the common morality has been applied.
As you have reviewed those cases, you have noted that the framework is applied when a moral rule violation is being considered. You have also noted that the person toward whom a social worker has a moral obligation is the person in the case toward whom the social worker is considering violating a moral rule. Determining who this person is, is key in solving ethical dilemmas. The person who is owed a moral obligation is the person who is most affected by the action that is being considered. For example, in the case of the Dubois family, the ethical dilemma is whether the social worker should support Mr. Dubois in taking Mrs. Dubois home or support the physicians’ stance that Mrs. Dubois should remain in a care facility. The person owed a moral obligation in this case is Mrs. Dubois because she is the one toward whom the social worker is considering violating moral rules.