Ethics Law and Legal Definition

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that defines what is good for the individual and society. It establishes the nature of obligations, or duties, that people owe themselves and one another. In modern society, ethics defines how individuals, business professionals, and corporations choose to interact with one another. For example, legal ethics refers to the system of professional regulations governing the conduct of lawyers.

Laws can be neutral on ethical issues, or they can be used to endorse ethics. Courts have at times resolved strong ethical dilemmas in society. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (U.S. 1973) which makes abortion legal in the United States. Laws also permit many actions that need not be ethically right. For example, U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (U.S. 1857) declaring slaves were not citizens but property. Mostly ethics of a particular act is determined independently without looking into legality of conduct. Many a times, decisive answers cannot be given for ethical issues as there are no enforceable standards or reliable theories for resolving ethical conflicts.