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BANGLADESH UNIVERSITY OF PROFESSIONALS

Faculty of Business Studies

A STUDY ON DEEDS THAT ARE LEGAL BUT UNETHICAL


AND DEEDS THAT ARE ETHICAL BUT ILLEGAL
Submitted To: Major General S M Shafiuddin Ahmed, ndu, psc

MD. JASHIM UDDIN


Roll Number : Ev-16013020
MBA (Professional) September 2016
Section - B

A STUDY ON DEEDS THAT ARE LEGAL BUT UNETHICAL


AND DEEDS THAT ARE ETHICAL BUT ILLEGAL

A STUDY ON DEEDS THAT ARE LEGAL BUT UNETHICAL


AND DEEDS THAT ARE ETHICAL BUT ILLEGAL
Introduction
As human beings we live in societies which are governed by
some laws that we must follow or uphold to be considered as ideal
citizens or members of that society. Yet there are times or situations
when we have to act against those laws or break the laws to help
other members of those societies. Again, at times we just do things
that do not necessarily break any rules or laws of the society but in
our heart we can feel that it was not right according to the laws of
nature or moral code of ethics. In this paper I will try to explore
those moral and societal codes/laws to see what they represent and
also bring some examples to justify my opinion on this matter which
I will endorse at the end of this paper.
Definitions
Ethical. As bioethicist Larry Churchill has described: "Ethics,
understood as the capacity to think critically about moral values and
direct our actions in terms of such values, is a generic human
capacity. Here Churchill defined ethics as our moral values that
help us to dictate what is right or what is wrong and guide our
actions according to that values. To make it clearer, being ethical
means doing things or taking actions that are in agreement with the
moral rules or standards for right conduct or practice or behavior,
especially in a particular society or among a group of people who
share common interests. Ethical codes or values can be of written
and

unwritten

forms

that

work

at

professions, and at the organizational level.

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personal

level,

within

Legal. In our societies legal means the acts and things that are
established by or founded upon law; lawful. In a broader definition,
such acts or things are considered legal which are recognized by the
law and acts that are enforceable by the law where violators of
which are punished by the law. Also there are some acts which in
some societies considered unethical but legal within the boundaries
of the law.
Unethical. Acts or behavior that are opposite of ethical.
Illegal. Things or acts that fall against the law or opposite of
legal.

Legal but Unethical


In most cases legal/lawful acts that involve betraying a loyal
and trusted friend, colleague, mentor, partner, anybody fall under
the category of unethical acts. Since these cases are mostly of
personal kinds, oftentimes there seems to be an absence of any
specific law to govern them. For such cases only moral obligations of
mutual trust and loyalty perform as the constraints for keeping
people from doing these. For example, if somebody shares a crucial
business information with a certain friend based on a mutual trust
that they have between them, information which on disclosure can
cause hamper to the business of that person at the same time can
be valuable for a third party and in an apparent act of betrayal the
friend

whom

he

shared

the

information

with

eventually

sells/discloses the information to the third party will mark this act as
unethical yet it will not break any law therefore will be considered
legal.

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Some business organizations do many unethical deeds cleverly


without breaking any law on a routine basis that it almost looks like
they are doing nothing unethical. We see many companies
advertising or marketing their products in such a fashion that some
people are misled to believe information that are not actually true
but seems true and buy their products. For example, in our country
while promoting the products through Television Commercials some
food/beverage

companies

extremely

exaggerate

about

the

ingredients of the products or about the benefits that can be derived


by consuming their products. They do it in such a subtle way that no
concreate evidence can be produced if one wants to file a case
against them. Yet in the terms of legal system they are breaking no
law at the same time they are violating the ethical code of business.
In a capitalist / free market society, the system on which our
countrys economy is based, it is not illegal to set prices for products
way higher than the actual cost of their production. Being legally
cleared for pricing the products as desired by the manufacturer,
many companies of our country charges prices for their products as
high as possible and as far away as from the real cost. It is true that
what they do does not violate the law but if seen from an ethical
perspective these acts are of great immorality hence unethical.

Ethical but Illegal


Since most legal acts are compatible with moral ethics, there is
not much room for people to commit something ethically correct but
not supported by the law. Yet countries that are being oppressed
or/and governed by tyrants or similar governments legislate laws
that do not complement the well-being of general public. In those
countries civil disobedience is a matter of daily happenings.
Hence, most cases of ethical-but-illegal category comes from civil
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disobedience. An apt example of such cases could be the famous


speech of our nations father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, delivered on 7
March 1971 where he announced the historic "non-cooperation"
movement against the military and political establishment of West
Pakistan in an effort to press the Pakistani government to accept the
national election results of 1970. Due to his speech, most
Bangladeshis (East Pakistanis at that time) broke several state laws
by stopping to pay taxes to the Pakistani state, and putting a
complete halt to all monetary transactions between East and West
Pakistan. Even though these acts were considered illegal by the
state but it was also completely ethical since the people were
rebelling for a just cause.
Another accurate example of ethical-but-illegal case could be
the act of performing euthanasia by the doctors. It is the practice of
intentionally terminating a life in order to relieve the person from his
pain and suffering. According to the law (in most countries), this
practice is illegal but the act is morally ethical because by doing this
a doctor only lets a patient to die before his time, the time which is
usually of a very short period and extremely painful, and most
importantly the condition of the patient is certainly beyond recovery.
There is also a classic example for ethical-but-illegal cases,
where someone breaks into a pharmacy to steal the medicine for
his/her child, who needs the medicine immediately and the parent
has no other way to acquire the medicine in time. In this case the
parent surely commits illegal act by breaking into someone elses
property and stealing from them but the act is also very ethical
since the person does not do this for any personal gains but in the
contrary he/she does it for the well-being of his/her child.

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Conclusion
Though most of the times ethics and legality have the same
qualifications but in application only laws have the authority to bring
the responsible subjects to justice in case of its violation. Moreover,
even though in theory the laws are equally applicable to everyone,
but in reality every now and then it is manipulated by the unethical
powerful people. Here lies the beauty of ethics; ethic is what makes
us human, it tells us what is truly right and what is truly wrong. No
matter how big the gain is, a legal-but-unethical act can be very
much unsettling for a person once he goes past the material profit
he has made in the act and sees the harm it has done to the other
party involved. Therefore, personally, I find it more important to be
ethically right than legally wrong. I would rather break a law
and accept the consequences to do something illegal if the ethical
morality demands me to do so.

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