Ethical Considerations

Ethical Considerations



Decisionsaffect stakeholders in different ways depending on their interestsand rights in the underlying issue. This paper will analyze the casein which Harper Lee, the author of the book “Go Set a Watchman”had decided not to publish another book, but her attorney, TonjaCarter and the internal rights agent, Andrew Nurnberg hold that Leehad reversed her decision and is pleased with the publication of her58 year old draft to a marketable book. Ethical decisions shouldrespect the individual rights of the author, instead of focusing moreon the consequences, such as financial gains and the pleasure of bookreaders.

Thecritical facts related to a decision on whether to publish the bookor not include the rights of the owner of the book and the possibleconsequences of publishing or failing to publish. When consideringthe aspect of the rights of the author, Harper Lee, one should takeaccount of the fact that she had refused to publish the book for aperiod of 58 years. This raises a question of whether it was true, asheld by her Nurnberg, international rights agent, that Lee hadexpressed her intention to publish the book, in spite of herinability to speak and hear properly. In addition, the decision hasto weigh between the rights of the author, Harper Lee, and thepossible outcome of publishing the book. For example, publishing thebook will please thousands of potential readers who are waiting forthe book to be published, but such a decision will violate the rightsof Lee.

Basedon the critical factors aforementioned, the rights of the author andthe possible consequences of the decision, there are two possibleactions that one can take with regard to the present case. First, onecan decide to publish the book, which will favor potential readers.For example, the announcement of the publication of the book “GoSet a Watchman” attracted about two million potential readers, evenbefore it could be released (Tucker, 2015). The second action, notpublishing the book, would serve the interest of the author, HarperLee, who had decided and made a pronouncement to her friends that shewould not publish another book.

Anyof the two actions will affect four major categories of stakeholders.The first and the most important stakeholder is Harper Lee, theauthor of the book “Go Set a Watchman”, who expressed herintention not to publish the book. The second category ofstakeholders is millions of readers, who have expressed theirinterest in reading the book, even before it is released in themarket. The third stakeholder is Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney, whois expected to protect her character as an attorney by representingthe best interest of her client. However, Tonja Carter stated thatLee had changed her mind and supported the publishing of the book,but this opinion has been doubted given the health condition of Lee.Lastly, Lee’s international rights agent, Andrew Nurnberg would beaffected negatively by a decision not to publish the book andpositively by a decision to publish it.

Differentstakeholders would be affected in different ways by either of the twodecisions, including the decision to publish and a decision not topublish the book. The decision to publish the book would affectHarper Lee, the author, in a negative way since she had decidedseveral decades ago that she would not publish any other book(Tucker, 2015). Therefore, a decision not to publish the book wouldserve her best interest and demonstrate a respect to Lee’s rights.

Adecision to publish the book would please potential readers who havebeen waiting for the book with eager. It was reported that potentialreaders had ordered more than two million copies in about five monthsbefore the book was released (Tucker, 2015). This implies that adecision not to publish the book would discourage millions of readersand violate their perceived right to access the information containedin the book.

Adecision to publish the book would tarnish the name of Tonja Carter,Lee’s attorney. Members of the public are strongly convinced thatHarper Lee’s health condition cannot allow her to make any rationaldecision, such as reversing her decades-old decision not to publishany book as Carter holds (Tucker, 2015). Therefore, publishing thebook will damage the image of Carter, who seems to misrepresent theinterest of her client in the eyes of the members of the public. Thedecision reflects Carter’s bad character, which in turn puts herintegrity and the ability to uphold professional responsibility indoubt (Badaracco, 2002). However, a decision not to publish the bookwould disappoint Carter since she holds that the best interest of herclient was to have the book published.

Similarto carter, the international rights agent would be pleased with adecision to publish the book. Publishing the book would mean morebusiness for the right agent, who manages the copyright on behalf ofLee. However, this represents a conflict of interest where the agentis more interested by potential consequences or the spectacularoutcome of publishing than the rights of the author (Badaracco,2003). Therefore, the second decision, not to publish the book, wouldhurt the internal agents.

Thebest decision that one can make in the present case is to avoidpublishing the book. Although this decision does not maximize thenet-net consequences of all stakeholders and fails to represent whatmight work well in the present world as it is, it protects the humanrights of the author, Harper Lee. Lee had lost most of her senses(including the hearing and seeing) when the decision on whether topublish the book was being made, which means that she could not makeabiding decisions (Tucker, 2015). Therefore, decisions not to publishthe book, which would be consistent with a decision that Lee had madedecades ago would represent the best character of the decision makerand a reflection of a person who stands for justice and integrity.Defending justice for clients and observing integrity (representingthe honest opinions of clients) are fundamental ethical values.

Thereare two major factors that make a decision not to publish the bookmore ethical than a decision to publish it. First, an ethicaldecision should respect the rights of individuals (Badaracco, 2002).In the present case, the decision should respect the rights of Lee,who is the author of the book. Secondly, an ethical decision shoulddemonstrate the basic ethical values, including integrity andhonesty. The decision not to publish the book represent honesty andintegrity since Lee had made a decision that she would not publishanother book when she was sane, and it would be dishonest to holdthat she changed her mind at a time when she had lost most of hersenses.

Inconclusion, ethical decisions should respect individual rightsinstead of focusing more on the consequences. Although a singledecision can affect multiple stakeholders, the dilemma can be solvedby determining the stakeholders who have more rights than the others.For example, Harper Lee is the author and the owner of the book “GoSet a Watchman”, which means that her rights needs to be consideredbefore considering the interests of other stakeholders when decidingwhether or not to publish the book.


Badaracco,L. (2002). Lecturetext: Defining moments.Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Badaracco,L. (2003). Definingmoments: A framework for moral decisions.Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Tucker,N. (2015, February 16). To shill a mockingbird: How a manuscript’sdiscovery became Harper Lee’s ‘new’ novel. TheWashington Post.Retrieved September 23, 2015, from