Whether the community is looking for “scapegoats” to blame, or seeking more radical and deeper causes, health care managers are in the firing line whenever there are woes in the health care sector. The public has a right to question whether ethics have much influence on the everyday decision making of health care managers. This thesis explores, through a series of published papers, the influence of ethics and other factors on the decision making of health care managers in Australia. Critical review of over 40 years of research on ethical decision making has revealed a large number of influencing factors, but there is a demonstrable lack of a multidimensional approach that measures the combined influences of these factors on managers. This thesis has developed an instrument, the Managerial Ethical Profile (MEP) scale, based on a multidimensional model combining a large number of influencing factors. The MEP scale measures the range of influences on individual managers, and describes the major tendencies by developing a number of empirical profiles derived from a hierarchical cluster analysis. The instrument was developed and refined through a process of pilot studies on academics and students (n=41) and small-business managers (n=41), and then was administered to the larger sample of health care managers (n=441). Results from this study indicate that Australian health care managers draw on a range of ethical frameworks in their everyday decision making, forming the basis of five MEPs (Knights, Guardian Angels, Duty Followers, Defenders, and Chameleons). Results from the study also indicate that the range of individual, organisational, and external factors that influence decision making can be grouped into three major clusters or functions. Cross referencing these functions and other demographic data to the MEPs provides analytical insight into the characteristics of the MEPs. These five profiles summarise existing strengths and weaknesses in managerial ethical decision making. Therefore identifying these profiles not only can contribute to increasing organisational knowledge and self-awareness, but also has clear implications for the design and implementation of ethics education and training in large scale organisations in the health care industry
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