Honesty, Professionals, and the Vulnerability of the Public

Thomas L. Carson

in Lying and Deception

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577415
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722813 | DOI:
Honesty, Professionals, and the Vulnerability of the Public

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Often, professionals are in a position to advance their own financial interests by means of lying and deception, e.g., lying to a client to manipulate her into purchasing unneeded services. This creates very serious ethical problems because clients often have no way to assess the truth of what professionals tell them. We are at the mercy of professionals and need to rely on their honesty. This chapter presents examples that illustrate this important and wide‐spread phenomenon and argue that the financial benefits professionals often derive from deception create systemic conflicts of interest. Professionals should adhere to a strong presumption against lying and deception in their dealings with their clients. In addition, all, or almost all, professionals have a duty to warn others of potential health and safety hazards and refrain from steering clients/customers toward decisions they have reason to think will be harmful to them. Professionals who work on the understanding that they are acting as fiduciaries (or quasi‐fiduciaries) for the benefit of their clients/employers are obligated to do much more than this. They must be candid and provide salient information that clients/employers need. Those who have fiduciary duties to others have extensive positive duties to provide information to others – they must do more than refrain from lying and deception. Perhaps the most fully developed account of the obligation of individuals to provide information is found in the principle of informed consent in medicine. The chapter explains this principle and ask how far it can or should be extended to other professions. The chapter argues that informed consent is a good model for professionals who are hired and paid by their clients and have fiduciary duties to act for the benefit of their clients, but not for professionals who do not have fiduciary duties to their clients/customers.

Keywords: professional ethics; professional responsibility; temptations to deceive; conflict of interest; duties to inform; informed consent; trust; reliance

Chapter.  4695 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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