Volume 34, Issue 3 (May 1989)
Prevalence and Impact of Ethical Problems in Forensic Science
The prevalence of ethical problems in the forensic sciences is difficult to discover because of the limited sources of this information. A clear understanding of ethical violations is essential to establish the extent to which justice is hindered by unethical conduct among forensic scientists and then to improve the ethical state of the profession by addressing these specific problems. Seven major classes of evidence of ethical conduct and examples of each are examined: proficiency testing studies, self-report surveys and focus groups, complaints to forensic science associations, court cases, content analysis of ethical codes, anecdotal data (news reports, the professional literature, and case studies), and circumstantial evidence. Three main categories of ethical problems emerged from the data: problems of competency, individual misbehavior, and problems of practicing science in an adversary system. There is a need for more studies and various data collections to improve understanding of ethical problems in the forensic sciences and to seek to ameliorate them.