First Year Inquiry (FYI)

Fall 2023

Moral & Ethical Dilemmas


Professor Dr. Ashraf Ghaly, P.E.
Department Engineering
Office Olin 102D
Tel., email 518-388-6515, ghalya@union.edu

Lectures: TTH 9:00-10:45AM, Olin 306.

Office hours: immediately after class or request an appointment.


Life would be different from the way we know it if making decisions about issues we face in our daily living was as clear as black and white. A binary choice from two options, one of which is totally right and the other is completely wrong would be extremely easy. With many layers of complexities in our society today, limitless shades of gray are the themes of almost every human interaction. Problems faced by individuals may also have moral or ethical dimensions, which require deeper examination and careful dissection before passing a judgment. Moral and ethical dilemmas arise when reasonable people cannot agree on a singular solution or a sole outcome for a given problem. In such a case priorities have to be established and compromises have to be made to ameliorate the outcome of the dilemma. Students in this course will be introduced to many such scenarios through actual case studies. Class discussion and listening to various viewpoints will help students develop a sense of appreciation that would ultimately contribute to finding an acceptable resolution to the dilemma at hand.


93+ = A 89+ = A- 85+ = B+ 81+ = B 77+ = B- 73+ = C+ 69+ = C 65+ = C- 60+ = D




Media Ethics, Issues and Cases

1. An Introduction to Ethical Decision-Making Essay: Cases and moral systems
Case 1-A: How to read a case study
2. Information Ethics: A Profession Seeks the Truth
Case 2-A: Anonymous or confidential: Unnamed sources in the news
Case 2-B: Death as content: Social responsibility and the documentary filmmaker
Case 2-C: News and the transparency standard
Case 2-D: Can I quote me on that?
Case 2-E: NPR, the New York Times, and working conditions in China
Case 2-F: When is objective reporting irresponsible reporting?
Case 2-G: Is it news yet?
Case 2-H: What's yours is mine: The ethics of news aggregation
3. Strategic Communication: Does Client Advocate Mean Consumer Adversary?
Case 3-A: Weedvertising
Case 3-B: Cleaning up their act: The Chipotle food safety crisis
Case 3-C: Keeping Up with the Kardashians' prescription drug choices
Case 3-D: Between a (Kid) Rock and a hard place
Case 3-E: Was that an Apple computer I saw? Product placement in the United States and abroad
Case 3-F: Sponsorships, sins, and PR: What are the boundaries?
Case 3-G: A charity drops the ball
4. Loyalty: Choosing Between Competing Allegiances
Case 4-A: Fair or foul? Reporter/player relationships in the sports beat
Case 4-B: To watch or to report: What journalists were thinking in the midst of disaster
Case 4-C: Public/on-air journalist vs. private/online life: Can it work?
Case 4-D: When you are the story: Sexual harassment in the newsroom
Case 4-E: Whose Facebook page is it anyway?
Case 4-F: Where everybody knows your name: Reporting and relationships in a small market
Case 4-G: Quit, blow the whistle, or go with the flow?
Case 4-H: How one tweet ruined a life
5. Privacy: Looking for Solitude in the Global Village
Case 5-A: Drones and the news
Case 5-B: Concussion bounty: Is trust ever worth violating?
Case 5-C: Joe Mixon: How do we report on domestic violence in sports?
Case 5-D: Looking for Richard Simmons
Case 5-E: Children and framing: The use of children's images in an anti-same-sex marriage ad
Case 5-F: Mayor Jim West's computer
Case 5-G: Politics and money: What's private and what's not
6. Mass Media in a Democratic Society: Keeping a Promise
Case 6-A: Reporting on rumors: When should a news organization debunk?
Case 6-B: Doxxer, Doxxer, give me the news?
Case 6-C: The truth about the facts: Politifact.com
Case 6-D: Wiki Leaks
Case 6-E: Control Room: Do culture and history matter in reporting the news?
Case 6-F: Victims and the press
Case 6-G: For God and Country: The media and national security
7. Media Economics: The Deadline Meets the Bottom Line
Case 7-A: Murdoch's mess
Case 7-13: Who controls the local news? Sinclair Broadcasting Group and "must-runs"
Case 7-C: Automated journalism: The rise of robot reporters
Case 7-D: Contested interests, contested terrain: The New York Times Code of Ethics
Case 7-E: Transparency in fundraising: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting standard
Case 7-F: News now, facts later
Case 7-G: Crossing the line? The LA Times and the Staples affair
8. Picture This: The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism
Case 8-A: Killing a journalist on-air: A means/ends test
Case 8-B: Remember my fame: Digital necromancy and the immortal celebrity
Case 8-C: Problem photos and public outcry
Case 8-D: Above the fold: Balancing newsworthy photos with community standards
Case 8-E: Horror in Soweto
Case 8-F: Photographing funerals of fallen soldiers
9. Informing a Just Society
Case 9-A: Spotlight: It takes a village to abuse a child
Case 9-B: 12th and Clairmount: A newspaper's foray into documenting a pivotal summer
Case 9-C: Cincinnati Enquirer's heroin beat
Case 9-D: Feminist fault lines: Political memoirs and Hillary Clinton
Case 9-E: GoldieBlox: Building a future on theft
10. The Ethical Dimensions of Art and Entertainment
Case 10-A: Get Out: When the horror is race
Case 10-B: To die for: Making terrorists of garners in Modern Warfare 2
Case 10-C: Daily dose of civic discourse
Case 10-D: The Onion: Finding humor in mass shootings
Case 10-E: Hate radio: The outer limits of tasteful broadcasting
Case 10-F: Searching fbr Sugar Man: Rediscovered art
11. Becoming a Moral Adult

Case Studies in Criminal Justice Ethics

1. Homegrown Terrorism
2. Park Place
3. Room at the End of the Hall
4. A Victim of Rape?
5. Different Choices, Equal Protection
6. A Christmas Wish
7. Fringe Benefits
8. The Transmission of Justice
9. Double Bind
10. Convicted by DNA?
11. "I've Got My Rights!".
12. The Only Way?
13. The War at Home
1. Diversion or Subversion?
2. Juvenile Probation: Boot Camp or Boot Hill?
3. The Court and Child Abuse
4. Child Rapist
5. A Question of Credibility
6. It's a Rat Race, and the Best Rat Wins
7. Everyone Does It
8. Brothers and Law
9. Probation or Prison?
10. "My Job Is to Defend the Constitution"
11. A Question of Integrity
12. Conflicting Duties
13. See No Evil?
1. The Limits of Responsibility
2. The Minister and the Ex-Offender
3. Temporary Release
4. Six Months to Go
5. Home Sweet Home
7. A Question of Policy
8. Confidentiality or Security?
9. Who's Running the Prison?
10. Sexual Harassment
11. Prisons for Profit
12. Death Row Dilemma
13. Correctional Counseling?
1. The Teacher, the Delinquent, and the Gang
2. A Family of Offenders
3. A Choice of Punishments
1. The Teacher, the Delinquent, and the Gang
2. A Family of Offenders
3. A Choice of Punishments
4. "1 Sorry, Officer"
5. Neighborhood Brat
6. Zero Tolerance or Intolerance?
7. Cruisers
8. Right Side of the Tracks—Wrong Side of the Law
9. A Loving Father?
10. Welcome Home?
11. A Conflict of Traditions
12. Jihad Joey
13. Guilty by Tattoo

Case Studies in Biomedical Ethics

1-1: Disclosure of a Terminal Diagnosis
2-1: Exercise, Diet, or Drugs to Control Cholesterol
2-2: Treating Breast Cancer: Finding the Value Judgments
2-3: Infertility Treatment: God's Will?
2-4: Baby Doe: Legal and Moral Options
3-1: Withholding Nutrition: The AMA, the Government, and the Church in Disagreement
3-2: The Case of the Meddling Clergyman
3-3: Providing Less-than-Optimal Services
3-4: The Eager Research Subject: Justifying External Moral Standards
3-5: Abortion in a Catholic Hospital
4-1: Stimulants as Performance Enhancer
4-2: Is an Operation a Benefit for a Hospice Patient?
4-3: The Benefits and Harms of High-Risk Chemotherapy
4-4: Physician Assistance in an ALS Patient's Suicide
4-5: Blocking Transplant for an HMO Patient with Liver Cancer: Serving the Patient and Serving the Community
4-6: Intentional Exposure of Unknowing Sexual Partners to HIV
4-7: For the Welfare of the Profession: Should Nurses Strike?
4-8: A Physician Choosing between His Patient and His Own Family
5-1: Under the Gun: Staying on Schedule in the HMO
5-2: Unfunded Dialysis at the Expense of Other Patients
5-3: Antibiotic for a Child's Otitis Media
5-4: Dental Sealants for Children's Teeth: Justice or Utility?
5-5: Allocating Livers for Transplant
5-6: Dialysis in an End-Stage HIV+ Patient: Justice, Benefit, and Patient Autonomy
6-1: Borderline Competency: Deciding About Major Heart Surgery
6-2: A Mature 12-Year-Old Who Refuses a Heart Transplant
6-3: Readdicting a Heroin User: Are Prisoners Free to Consent to Research?
6-4: A Diabetic Who Refuses Treatment for an Infection
6-5: Brought to the ER after a Suicide Attempt
6-6: Ignoring a Daughter's Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Decision
7-1: A Routine Mole or an Early Case of Skin Cancer: The Duty to Disclose Doubtful Information
7-2: Placebos for Addiction Withdrawal
7-3: Confessing an Error in Judgment: Is It Necessary?
7-4: Scanning for Money: Increasing Imaging to Enhance Practice Finances
7-5: Refusing to Learn about Cancer
7-6: A Clash of Cultures: A Japanese Family Asks that Their Father Not Be Told of Cancer
7-7: Disclosing Cancer to a Mentally Compromised Patient
7-8: A Psychiatric Patient's Right to Sec Her Medical Record
8-1: Keeping a Patient Waiting
8-2: I Will Be There for You at the End: A Promise Broken?
8-3: Continuing Treatment of a Patient Who Will Not Pay Her Bills
8-4: A GP Assisting in Surgical Operations: Stealing Business and Harming Patients?
8-5: Profiting from Unnecessary Angioplasty
8-6: Profiting from Self-Referral for MRIs
8-7: Incompetent Colleagues: A Response to a Surgical Complication
8-8: Dishonest Colleagues: Intentionally Shorting Tablet Counts
9-1: Jack Kevorkian: Merciful Homicide, Suicide, and Forgoing Life Support
9-2: Karen Quinlan: The Case of Withdrawing a Ventilator
9-3: Separating Conjoined Twins: An Unintended
but Foreseen Killing?
9-4: Claire Conroy: Are Medically Supplied Nutrition and Hydration Expendable?
9-5: Terri Schiavo: Choosing to Forgo Nutrition
9-6: Assisted Suicide, Alzheimer's Disease, and Depression
9-7: Physician Participation in Capital Punishment
10-1: Abortion for Teratogenic Indications
10-2: Postcoital Contraception or Abortion: Moral Choices Following a Rape
10-3: Abortion to Save a Pregnant Woman's Life
10-4: Abortion for the Mentally Incapacitated Patient 10-5: Abortion for Socioeconomic Reasons
10-6: Sterilization of an Economically Deprived Woman
10-7: Biased Counseling: Teaching about Birth Control
11-1: Statistical Morality: Prenatal Diagnosis of Colon Cancer
11-2: Dwarfism: When Is a Fetus Normal?
11-3: Sickle Cell and Black Genocide
11-4: Surrogate Motherhood: The Case of Baby M
11-5: Embryo Biopsy
11-6: Using Genes to Treat Brain Cancer
12-1: Guilt over Suicidal Thoughts
12-2: "Ain't Nobody Gonna Cut on My Head"
12-3: The Jesus Christian Transplant: Brainwashed into Donating a Kidney?
12-4: A Kidney to Turn a Life Around
12-5: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Funding Therapy for a Preexisting Condition
12-6: Insurance Coverage for Psychoanalysis
12-7: Treating in Order to Stand Trial
12-8: The Interrogation of Guantanamo Prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani
12-9: Starving an Adolescent to Shape Him Up
13-1: Warning: Premarital Sex May Be Dangerous to Your Health
13-2: The Murder of Tatiana Tarasoff: The Therapist's Duty to Warn
13-3: The Required State Psychiatric Diagnosis Record
13-4: Reporting the Motorist with Epilepsy
13-5: Medicine in the Service of the FBI
13-6: The Case of the Homosexual Husband
14-1: Donation, Salvaging, and Incentives for Transplantable Organs
14-2: Tainted Organs: Donors with High-Risk Lifestyles
14-3: Donation after Cardiac Death: Starting Procurement without Consent
14-4: Treating Donors to Optimize Organ Quality
14-5: Whites Only: The KKK and Socially Directed Donation
14-6: Is an Organ Swap Unfair?
14-7: The Child as the Source of a Kidney
14-8: Patients with Alcohol Dependency and Their Rights to Livers for Transplant
14-9: Multiple Organs for a Famous Governor
15-1: The Sixth Stool Guaiac: A Classic Cost-Containment Case
15-2: Insuring Off-Label Pain Relief
15-3: The $300,000 Marginal Treatment
15-4: Too Old for Bypass?
15-5: Promoting Patients' Rights by Denying Insurance Coverage
15-6: Drug Companies versus Insurance Companies: The Costs of Postmarketing Clinical Trials
15-7: Hospital Bureaucracy and the Uninsured
16-1: Chemotherapy Risks: Is Going Without Chemotherapy a Benefit?
16-2: Research to Develop Screening Techniques for HIV-Infected Blood
16-3: Abortion and Psychopathology: Research on Medical Records
16-4: Surveying Illegal Immigrants
16-5: Homicide in Research: A Duty to Breach Confidentiality?
16-6: Justice in Research Design: Being Fair to the Critically Ill
16-7: Paying Clinicians to Recruit Research Subjects
16-8: Waiving Consent for Future Research on Blood Samples
17-1: Therapeutic Privilege: Scaring the Patient to Death with News about Risks
17-2: Disclosing the Experience of a Surgeon
17-3: Disclosing the Risks of Dilantin to Seizure Clinic Patients: How Much to State
17-4: Consenting to Admission to a Psychiatric Unit
17-5: Ambivalent Consent: Adequately Voluntary?
17-6: Chemical Castration or Prison: Is There Really a Choice?
17-7: An Adolescent Refusing a Blood Transfusion
18-1: The Dying of Pelle Lindbergh: His Brain Is Gone, But Is He Dead?
18-2: Ambiguous Advance Directives: Who Interprets?
18-3: The Cruzan Case: Whether to Forgo Nutrition Based on a Patient's Views
18-4: Joseph Saikewicz: Withholding Chemotherapy for an Impaired Patient
18-5: Homicide and Forgoing Life Support
18-6: Picking Parents to Make Good Medical Choices
18-7: The Case of the Suspect Surrogates
18-8: Demands for Futile Care
18-9: Emilio Gonzales: Is His Care Futile in Texas?




Papers should be a Word document or PDF. There is no minimum or maximum page limit for papers. In addition to the text, students may wish to supplement their papers with proper photos, pictures, tables, graphs, charts, and figures. Supplementing materials must be referenced at least once in the text of the paper.

Paper Grading Criteria
Students are expected to highlight and detail their thought process and demonstrate how they applied critical thinking to the addressed dilemma. The grades in term papers will be assigned based on the quality and depth of thought, organization, and relevance of content to the subject under consideration, understanding, clarity of presentation, and demonstration of ability to address questions with comprehension.


  1. Students will develop an understanding that life is full of situations where one has to make difficult decisions. Decisions are never perfectly right or completely wrong, and this is always a dilemma.
  2. Students will learn that in order to make decisions one has to weigh all available options and factor them in the decision-making process.
  3. Students will develop a fresh perspective regarding how to think critically and rationally without excessive emotion.
  4. Students will appreciate the need to have a cool head when making life-impacting decisions. Over or under estimate of factors impacting the decision-making process may compromise the quality of the made decision.
  5. Students will comprehend that people's morals and values are impacted by the environment in which they were born and raised. Uniform global thinking about these issues may be an impossibility.
  6. Students will get the opportunity to debate controversial issues and express their opinions without intimidation in a professional setting where all points of views get to be presented and respected.

SUGGESTED REFERENCES (possible sources for additional reading)

Professor Ghaly Homepage Union College Homepage