Home Education Ethics and the Practice of Forensic Science
Comparing Approaches for Forensic Science
The comparison of the utilitarian and deontological approaches of ethics as they relate to forensic science is better understood when observing a common topic in the field. Take, for example, the opening of cases by the Innocence Project.1 From the consequentialist perspective, what are the consequences of reopening of past cases? Does this act benefit the Innocence Project, society, or both? Is the Innocence Project using society as a means to an end? In examining the consequences, it is helpful to consider outcomes. The potential positive outcomes are freeing individuals who were wrongly convicted, supporting guilt, showing the strength of forensic evidence such as DNA, and giving hope to those who believe they were wrongly convicted. The potential negative outcomes of the Innocence Project include not having the necessary resources, that is, scientists or funding to examine the current cases, to complete backlog cases, and to rework past cases. Initially, such negative outcomes may reflect badly on science if people are proven innocent with the reexamination of evidence, and more people will request cases be reopened or evidence be retested, which will take a good deal of time, money, and resources.
When considering means-end relationships, with either approach, it is useful to answer questions that assist in determining the degree of ethical issues involved. A means-end relationship is best explained by the relationship between one’s methods and one’s results. As paraphrased from Ethics in Human Communication (Johannesen et al., 2008), here are some questions to determine the level of ethics in any means-end relationship:
Means-end relationships are a crucial factor to consider in ethical decision-making.
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