Q. You are working as an executive in a nationalised bank for several years. One day one of your close colleagues tells you that her father is suffering from heart disease and needs surgery immediately to survive. She also tells you that she has no insurance and the operation will cost about Rs. 10 lakh. You are also aware of the fact that her husband is no more and that she is from a lower middle class family. You are empathetic about her situation. However, apart from expressing your sympathy, you do not have the resources to find her.
A few weeks later, you ask her about the well-being of her father and she informs you about his successful surgery and that he is recovering. She then confides in you that the bank manager was kind enough to facilitate the release of Rs. 10 lakh from a dormant account of someone to pay for the operation with a promise that it should be confidential and be repaid at the earliest. She has already started paying it back and will continue to do so until it is all returned.
(a) What are the ethical issues involved?
(b) Evaluate the behaviour of the bank manager from an ethical point of view.
(c) How would you react to the situation?
The case presents an ethical dilemma between empathy and objectivity.
- Misuse of authority – breach of the trust placed in the manager’s role.
- Lack of transparency – The “loan” provided in an unofficial, non-transparent manner without following due process.
- Potential conflict of interest – preferential treatment and bias may be for some personal return.
- Justification of wrongful action – saving a life though well-intended, wrong means are unethical.
- Apathy – Despite being aware of the unethical actions, I remained a passive observer.
EVALUATION OF THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE BANK MANAGER
- Positive perspective:
- Act of beneficence – The manager intended to help a colleague in need, demonstrating kindness and empathy.
- Good intentions – intention of an action is more important than the action itself.
- Negative perspective:
- Misusing power against duty violates the deontological ethics of Immanuel Kant.
- Lack of accountability violates the principle of responsibility in ethics.
- Unfair preferential treatment is against distributive justice concepts of John Rawls.
- Flouting banking rules and regulations disregards respect for the law emphasised by Lon Fuller.
MY REACTION TO THE SITUATION
- Express empathy for a colleague’s situation while voicing concern over unethical practices.
- Discourage secrecy, and explain its larger impacts.
- Request bank authorities to not press legal charges on compassionate grounds.
- Offer to take a personal loan to repay the amount, letting my colleague repay in instalments.
- Advocate for emergency medical funds or insurance coverage
- Conduct ethics training for staff on appropriate decision-making in difficult situations.
- Strengthen internal controls and audits.
- Advocate for reforms like faster processing of loans for medical emergencies.
- Promote transparency culture focused on ethics and accountability.
A supportive environment and ethical culture can guide staff to make the right decisions.
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