The Nature of Ethics
The board of directors of the transistor company is faced with the ethical dilemma of whether to continue selling to the pacemaker company after several incidents of pacemaker failure causing the death of heart patients it was suppose to save. The consequences of the board’s decision are numerous. If they stop selling, the pacemaker company would have to go out of business because all other transistor suppliers had already backed out.
If the pacemaker company is forced to go out of business, there will come a time when no one will be making heart pacemakers, which many people need. The pacemaker company’s employees would also be out of jobs. But if they continue selling like before and incidents of deaths caused by pacemaker failure continue, there is a great possibility that the transistor company would be sued for damages.
Who are the decision makers? The decision makers in this situation are the members of the board of directors of the transistor company. Only they could decide whether to continue selling to the pacemaker company, stop altogether, or take a third route. Who are the stakeholders? The stakeholders are the patients needing the pacemakers, the employees and shareholders of the pacemaker company, and the employees and shareholders of the transistor company.
Why is this an ethical decision? This is an ethical decision because “ethics is the study and evaluation of human conduct in the light of moral principles” (Johnson, para. 1). The board of directors would have to weigh the different claims and concerns of various stakeholders in the situation. Moral principles of upholding agreements and that of promoting health are significant in this ethical dilemma.
- Stakeholder Management — The Customer
- What are the customer stakeholders’ interests for each ethical issue or concern you identified in the Introduction?
The “customer” here refers to the pacemaker company to whom the transistor company sells its products. Its interest in this ethical dilemma is the continuation of their agreement with the transistor company. If the transistor company continues to supply them with transistors they will be able to continue making heart pacemakers. They will then be able to fulfill their obligations to their shareholders, their employees, and their own customers.
- What are the customer responsibilities for each ethical issue or concern you identified in the Introduction?
The pacemaker company’s responsibility in this situation is to ensure that the heart pacemakers they make with the transistors are safe and will perform well. They should ensure that the technology they use to test the performance of the pacemakers is strong and of high quality. They should take necessary steps to minimize pacemaker failure.
- What are the possible decisions the corporation could make for each ethical issue or concern, and what are the possible effects on the customer stakeholders?
The transistor company could decide to stop supplying transistors to the pacemaker company. If they do this, the pacemaker company could go out of business since they are their last supplier of transistors. Its employees would lose their jobs. Its customers, the patients, would lose their chance for a normal life. And its shareholders would lose returns on their investments.
The board of directors could also decide to continue selling transistors to the pacemaker company. If they do, the pacemaker company could also continue making pacemakers for heart patients. But if both companies do not address the problem of product failure, they could both be sued for damages by the patients’ families and other concerned sectors of society.
- Conclusion and Recommendation
- What is your recommendation to the corporation based on all of the facts, issues, and concerns of this case?
The solution to this ethical dilemma need not be an either-or decision. The transistor company could continue supplying transistors to the pacemaker company so they could continue making heart pacemakers and still safeguard its own interests, i.e., continue making profits and avoid a lawsuit. It is recommended that the transistor company enter into an agreement with the pacemaker company requiring the latter to improve the quality of the pacemakers they produce and develop safety measures for the use of the technology. If the pacemaker company fails to perform, then the transistor company can opt to withdraw their supply.
This action is recommended for these reasons: 1) it ensures that efforts will be done to improve the pacemaker technology; 2) it promises better products for the heart patients that would minimize the occurrences of product failure; 3) both companies will be able to fulfill their obligation to the shareholders to maximize profits; 4) the pacemaker company wouldn’t be forced to close; 5) the pacemaker company’s employees wouldn’t lose their jobs.
- What are the positive implications of your recommendation?
As utilitarian ethics would say, this recommended action is positive because “it produces the greatest possible good over the evil consequences” (The Nature, Utilitarianism: Consequence-Based Theory section, para. 1). It promises better technology for the heart patients and, accordingly, better profits for both companies. If the possibility of power failures is reduced, then more and more patients would be willing to buy heart pacemakers.
It also follows the fifth stage of Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development wherein “a good society is best conceived as a social contract into which people freely enter to work toward the benefit of all” (Crain, Kohlberg’s Six Stage Level III. Postconventional Morality section, para. 1). One condition of this good society is the protection of certain basic rights, such as liberty and life.
- What are the negative implications of your recommendation?
I can’t see a negative implication of the recommendation. As argued above, I think the recommendation is a good compromise between the two companies. It takes into consideration, not just the maximization of profits, but also the welfare of heart patients.
- What will critics of your recommendation argue?
Critics could say that the recommendation does not provide compensations for the families of the patients who died because of pacemaker failure.
- How would you address your critics’ concerns? How will you defend your recommendations?
The cause of pacemaker failure could not only be singled out to be inefficient technology. The incompetence of doctors who implant the device could also play a role. The recommendation does not directly say to the people that the deaths had been caused by inefficient technology, but it does make the pacemaker company take responsibility for their product by improving it. The recommendation allows the companies to take action that would result to “maximal pleasure and minimal pain” (Rees, Mill’s Act Utilitarian section).
Crain, W. C. (1985). Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. Theories of Development
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Johnson, M. (n.d.). Ethical Theories. Retrieved February 2, 2007 from http://www.stanford.edu/class/cs201/05_Ethical_Theories.pdf
Rees, C. (2005). John Stuart Mill & Utilitarianism. Retrieved February 2, 2007 from http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~cfrees/im-sj/mill-h.pdf
The Nature of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2007 from www.macfast.org/gen/gen/Ethics/Chapter_nbsp_1_nbsp_Ethics.doc –