Professional Ethics - Legal vs. Ethical

Many people confuse ‘ethical’ with ‘legal’. Legal is the word used to define anything that concerns the law or its workings. It is applicable to all practices, languages, processes, procedures, cultures, and other relative concepts in a system of the law. On the other hand, ethics is the word used to define the traditional norms and morals of an individual.

Many of the existing laws have originated from ethics while ethics is rooted in morals and the perception of the rightness or wrongness of an act or conduct.

Any legal act is applicable to all people in a State that implements a particular set of laws. On the other hand, ethics is society specific. Two different societies located in a similar geo-political region definitely have one rule of law, but they may have two different ethics. For example, in India, there is one law applicable to every citizen, but possibly there are several ethics applicable to concerned society only.

However, both the terms – legal and ethical – are spatio-temporal and change with time and space. For example, there was a time when slavery was legally justified.

Spatio Temporal

Many of you might agree that imprisoning free men and deporting them away from their lands and families were not at all ethical. Over a period of time, the law had been amended and redrafted to abolish slavery.

In other words, ethics emphasizes on the rights of living beings (on morality ground) and suggests it should not be violated by any means.