In certain situations, the moral or ethical decision is obvious, but more often than not, there are a number of complicating factors. Almost all decisions we make will affect more than just ourselves, forcing us to weigh our own morality against another’s autonomy. This is particularly true in the case of medical interventions for the sake of another’s health.
One of the great miracles of modern medicine is the ability to save a dying patient through organ transplantation. However, there still remains a worldwide shortage of organs and an excess of disadvantaged individuals who believe their salvation is not to receive, but sell one.
Every day, regardless of what I do, I use forced labor.
No, I am not a plantation owner in the South during the Civil War, nor am I a current factory owner in Asia. Rather, I am a 21-year-old Fordham student from the Bronx. I grew up in a loving, middle-class family with happily married parents, a brother, and a cat. I do not fit the stereotype of someone who uses forced labor, but I assure you that I do.
Everyday we struggle to resolve how to treat those who wrong us or cause us pain. How do we punish those who steal from us? Who determines how we are fully compensated for the pain others inflict on us? We demand justice, or a system of fairness that safeguards our dignity as humans. Our personal morals feed into this system of fairness, often making justice a complex ethical issue.
This winter I decided to volunteer at an organization I saw listed in Fordham’s Dorothy Day Center newsletter teaching inner-city, public-high school kids. Great, I thought — I went to a New York City public school, so I know a bit about these kids and the backgrounds they tend to have.
I attended a day-long orientation in a high-rise, Times Square building with carefully-selected minimalist decor. Most of the students in attendance were from other private institutions. Briefly, we went over what they deemed to be”safe” and “accessible” words to use with these students, who, it was implied, might not understand a certain vocabulary.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. . . Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40)