In this chapter we will explore the nature of ‘professional ethics’ (as a set of professional norms) and the extent to which professional ethics can legitimately be regarded as special, or indeed separate from the ethics of ordinary life. The fact that we talk of ‘professional ethics’ implies that these ethics are not only important and legitimate, but also in some way different from what we might call ‘ordinary ethics’ (that is, the norms we follow in ‘non-professional’ or ‘everyday’ life). The existence of categories such as ‘social work ethics’, ‘medical ethics’ or ‘legal ethics’, and the fact that occupational groups have their own codes of ethics, could be taken to suggest that it is important, or even necessary, that each professional group has a distinctive set of ethics, and that these are different from each other and from ‘ordinary ethics’. But how important is this, and how distinctive are they, or should they be?
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