Rapid changes in technology and social organization in the global environment have led to an acute need for reflection on the kind of society we want, and the norms by which it should be governed. On the local scene, professionals face practical problems of devising just policies and making ethical decisions in the face of new economic and technological situations.
Physicians and nurses must deal with the ethics of assisted suicide as well as just distribution of health care resources and services, as technological costs and demands on personal use rise.
Engineers and business professionals face environmental controls and legislation, and the difficulties of balancing profit and human values.
Social workers and lawyers deal with increasingly complex issues of social justice and the practical problems of accommodating conflicting private and public interests.
Computer scientists and journalists must consider the ethical regulation of the Internet and conglomerate control of traditional news media.
Practical experience, the discussion of individual cases and appeals to laws are often helpful, but these new situations show the need for professionals to reflect on the basis for ethical decision-making. An understanding of the theories of ethics and a grasp of how these can be applied to contemporary problems can enable professionals to approach new circumstances with more depth, flexibility and confidence.