Applied Ethics

Applied Ethics

 Applied Ethics is part of ethics which attempts to analyze the ethicality of real-life controversial situations such as war, animal rights, capital punishment, euthanasia, whistle-blowing, media ethics, International Ethics etc.

We will deal with some of the issues of applied ethics in this article to equip you to handle any such case in the examination.

Environmental Ethics

  • Environment Ethics says that the environment should also be a criterion to judge the righteousness and wrongness of an action (earlier decision-makers were not using it as a criterion).
  • Ecological values are part of Indian tradition, where nature is revered for its services to humanity. Environmentalists like Baba Amte have also spread awareness about ecological balance and wildlife preservation. They believed that humans must live in harmony with nature and not by exploiting it.

Environmental Values include

Applied Ethics
  1. Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development is the development that meets the present generation’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their respective needs. It calls for judicious use of resources)
  2. Conservation 
  3. Co-existence 
  4. Holistic approach  

The need for sustainable development could be summarized by what Gandhi said, ‘Earth has sufficient resources for the need of man but not the greed of man.’ Thus greed will lead to the mindless exploitation of resources and compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

(2014 UPSC) Nowadays, there is an increasing thrust on economic development all around the globe. At the same time, there is also an increasing concern about environmental degradation caused by development. Many a time, we face a direct conflict between developmental activity and environmental quality. It is neither feasible to stop or curtail the development process nor is it advisable to keep degrading the environment, as it threatens our very survival.

Discuss some feasible strategies which could be adopted to eliminate this conflict and which could lead to sustainable development. (250 words)

Today, Policymakers have to look for Sustainable Development so that equilibrium can be maintained between development and conservation of the environment. To achieve high economic growth, we can’t allow the environment to degrade to such an extent that our cities become unlivable and the Earth face an existential crisis. Nor can we afford not to develop at all because the country needs to develop to eliminate poverty. Hence, the need of the hour is to grow in a way which causes minimum harm to nature.

  1. Green GDP: Growth should take into account the depletion of resources done to achieve that growth 
  2. Use the Polluter Pays Principle 
  3. Use of Green Codes 
  4. Increase the energy efficiency of appliances 
  5. Use Renewable Resources of Energy like Solar, Wind Energy etc. which are abundant and don’t cause any pollution. 
  6. Environment Impact Assessment should be done strictly, and projects should be designed in a way to make minimum impact on the environment.
  7. Go towards Organic Farming and the use of micro irrigation. 


The term “bioethics” refers to the broad terrain of the moral problems of the life sciences, ordinarily taken to encompass medicine, biology, and some important aspects of the environmental, population and social sciences.

Some of the general issues in bioethics include

  1. Clinical ethics regarding the day-to-day moral decisions confronted in caring for patients.
  2. Use of foetal tissue in Stem Cell research
  3. Euthanasia
  4. Cloning
  5. Human trials in the development of medicine

Broader theories to answer the questions in the field -of bioethics include.

  1. Utilitarian Approach: It looks at the consequences of a choice or action. Furthermore, the utilitarian view would look for the collective social benefit rather than advantages to individuals. E.g., the Utilitarian Approach would argue that human trials are good as it leads to the development of drugs that save millions of lives. ‘
  2. Deontological Approach: This approach would argue that “good consequences may have to be set aside to respect inalienable human rights”. An example would be subjecting individuals to medical research that may harm that individual while providing the potential to help others.
  3. Primum non-nocere: It is the doctors’ obligation not to inflict harm on others. Harm is to be avoided or minimized.  
  4. Justice: Distribution of healthcare and limited supplies fairly and equitably.  

Business Ethics

  • Business ethics is the system of morals and ethics followed by the business organization and individuals associated with the organization that guides their decision and behaviour. 
  • Ethical issues faced by corporations differ with the type of business operations. 

Business Ethics for various corporations

  • An e-commerce company like Amazon, Flipkart etc., involved in online operations of goods and services, must be prepared for ethical issues like the protection of data, customers’ privacy and security.
  •  A pharmaceutical company engaged in developing and manufacturing life-saving drugs would require the organization should not indulge in unethical actions like improper clinical trials, misleading advertisements, patent claims for non-innovations etc.  

Benefits of corporations following Business Ethics

  • Business ethics not only helps an organization tackle ethical issues, but it is also crucial in today’s world as it helps:
  • Builds trust among people: Ethical standards of operations followed by the company help in building a positive reputation. E.g., Tata group.
  • Provides stability to the company: Running a business in an ethical manner from top to bottom builds a stronger bond between employees and the management.
  • Improves performance of organization: A high standard of business ethics in all facets of operations makes people in an organization perform their job duties at a higher level and stay loyal to that organization.
  • Increase formal investment in the economy: A company with a foundation of ethical behaviour increases its potential to attract more investors and shareholders.  

Marketing Ethics

In a competitive environment in every product range, companies spend huge on marketing to get a competitive edge over their rivals. It is perfectly fine in an open economy. But the problem arises when they indulge in unethical practices like

  • Misappropriation of facts to misguide the people
  • Stereotyping of gender: For example, roles like dishwashing, kitchen work etc., done by female actors
  • Objectification of women: Some beauty cream and soap ads indulge in these practices
  • Use of brand ambassadors: Ambassadors endorse products which they don’t use or whose authenticity they don’t cross-check, making profits out of the public’s reverence of a person
  • Paid News: Some companies pay media houses to show their product in a positive light and swing public opinion. These are not an ad but paid news. E.g., Monsanto is frequently alleged to be paying media houses to make public opinion in favour of GMOs. 
  • Negative advertising techniques: the advertiser highlights the disadvantages of competitor products rather than their own advantages.  
  • Surrogate advertisement: It is an advertising technique to promote banned products in the disguise of another product. For example, advertising soda under the brand name of alcohol producing company for its promotion. E.g. ​o Liquor companies advertising Music CDs or pan masala ​brands advertising cardamom with celebrities.

Steps taken

  • Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, have been released to “protect the consumers” and “to ensure that consumers are not being fooled with unsubstantiated claims, exaggerated promises, misinformation and false claims”. These guidelines focus on misleading ads and ads shown during programming for children. Surrogate ads, meanwhile, have been banned completely.
  • Regulating Bodies: Advertisement Standard Council of India (ASCI) has been constituted to check on misappropriation of facts. 

Contemporary Issues in Marketing

  • Issue of legal liability of Celebrities wrt advertisements. The government is trying to bring it within the ambit of the law. 
  • Patanjali Case (2016): Uttarakhand High Court fined Patanjali ₹ 11 lakhs for misappropriation of facts in advertisements. 


  • Word ‘Euthanasia’ originated in Greece, meaning mercy killing.
  • Applied Ethics considers that death can never be good. But in the following conditions, Euthanasia shouldn’t be regarded as unethical. 
    • When a person is suffering from an untreatable disease 
    • The person is suffering from unending unbearable pain.
    • The person himself wants death. 
    • Relatives, too, consider that treatment is impossible.
    • reputed hospital should have certified that the disease is untreatable. 

Types of Euthanasia

There are two types

  • Active Euthanasia: Life-ending medication is administered to the patient by a third party, usually a doctor  
  • Passive Euthanasia: Life support is withdrawn  

Arguments against Euthanasia

  • Constitution of India: According to the Supreme Court judgement in Gian Kaur Case,1996, the Right to Life doesn’t include the Right to die.
  • Neglect of Healthcare by State: Legalized Euthanasia has led to a severe decline in the quality of care for terminally-ill patients in Holland.  
  • Malafide intention: Misusing Euthanasia by family members or relatives for inheriting the patient’s property. It was held in Aruna Shanbaug Case too. 

Arguments in favour of Euthanasia

  • Common Cause Case (2018) held that the Right to Life includes the Right to refuse treatment and Die with Dignity and allowed Passive Euthanasia and living wills.
  • Hospitals are already overcrowded. Hospitals should devote resources to those patients who can be cured.
  • Caregiver’s Burden: The caregiver’s burden is huge. Many families have gone bankrupt to ensure medical care for a terminally ill person or to keep up the treatment for an incurable disease.
  • It will help in saving the lives of other patients by encouraging organ transplantation.
  • Law Commission, in various reports, has spoken in favour of Passive Euthanasia. 

Aruna Shanbaug Judgement

The Supreme Court didn’t allow Active Euthanasia but allowed ‘Passive Euthanasia in the rarest of rare cases subject to safeguards like approval of the High Court Bench, based on consultation with a panel of medical experts. Additionally, only a hospital can make such a request.

Gender Inequality

Arguments of Applied Ethics w.r.t. Gender Inequality

  • Male and females have the same spirit. Hence, inequality is wrong.
  • The main reason for inequality is the physical power of man. But if Physical Power should be considered the main reason for the establishment of authority, then tigers should get precedence over Humans who are more powerful than Humans. 
  • If we compare males and females on mental abilities, females are more creative and have more reasoning abilities and rationality.
  • Men have outlined the social roles of females, which is morally wrong. 

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