These ideas for one approach to a process of thinking through an ethical dilemma, shown graphically in the chart below, are extracted from: Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip, Julie Hollowell, and Dru McGill In press Ethics in Action: Case Studies in Archaeological Dilemmas. Society for American Archaeology Press, Washington DC.
1. Identify the dilemma. What kind of problem is it? Is it truly an ethical dilemma, or is it a legal problem? In some cases, there may be more than one issue or concern.
2. Identify the facts. Identify all the known facts of the particular case and what is not known (but do not let them constrain how you imagine the possibilities).
3. Identify the stakeholders. Identify rightsholders, affected peoples, interest groups, and others who might have a connection to the issue. Use historical considerations as a guide. Who are the people involved, and what is their stake in the predicament? Understand the history behind the dilemma and consider any injustices done.
4. Generate possible solutions. Be reasonable and consistent. Take other viewpoints into account; try to be impartial. Look for areas of moral agreement.
5. Generate practical constraints. What might constrict possible solutions? What personalities are involved? What resources (monetary or otherwise) are realistically available in the given situation? Think about the legal issues involved. What would be the consequences of the possible solutions? Be aware of possible unintended consequences.
6. Generate alternative solutions. Examine alternative possibilities, taking into account all of the above, as well different philosophical theories. Think about codes, principles, and guidelines that might already exist.
7. Solve the dilemma. What alternative solutions are possible? Arrive at a solution, or several possible solutions.
8. Prepare for negotiation. Consider how you will negotiate your solution with others who are connected to the issue.
Chart caption: A framework for ethical problem solving (Colwell-Chanthaphonh et al. in press, adapted from Swazey and Bird 1997:13).
Swazey, Judith P., and Stephanie J. Bird 1997 Teaching and Learning Research Ethics. In Research Ethics: A Reader, edited by Deni Elliott and Judy E. Stern, pp. 1-19. University Press of New England, Hanover.