A code of ethics is a general overview of acceptable, expected conduct. It is subscribed to and required of persons within certain groups, professions and organizations. Codes of ethics are distinctly separate from moral codes, since they can also be held by criminal groups, such as hackers.
Codes of ethics date back to the Hippocratic Oath in the 4th century BC, which was written for both a school of medicine and practitioners of medicine.
Codes of ethics clarify what social and moral behavior is and is not acceptable by professional peers. They also regulate conduct.
According to Black's Law Dictionary, the function of a code of ethics is to hold persons within certain groups and organizations accountable to a set of predetermined guidelines and standards set forth by their particular group.
There is a wide variety of ethical codes. Examples include the Code of Professional Responsibility for those in legal professions, medical codes of ethics and even hackers' codes. Both lawful and unlawful groups have codes of ethics.
Benefits of a code of ethics include holding people within a specific group accountable to their peers, obligating shared responsibility and accountability, and making the group as a whole responsible for its individual members' conduct.
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