In this assignment, I will address drawing upon utilitarian ethics, and discuss what I believe the supplier/transistor company should do. The key aspects I will cover are, the key utilitarian ethical problem(s) confronting the supplier/transistor company in the Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier, what advice I believe Jeremy Bentham would have given the supplier company, applying steps A through D of the Utility Test, then apply the test I’ve chosen to the case and compare and contrast the results I obtained from the Utility Test with the additional test you I selected. The Pacemaker
The pacemaker is a wonder of modern medicine, built to save lives. The pacemaker was the first of its kind, a device that has a timer that acts as a heartbeat. The device resets itself every time the patient’s heart beats. If the heart does no beat on schedule, the pacemaker gives a stimulus that causes a heartbeat. The technology of the pacemaker wasn’t always as sophisticated as it is today. In this case, the issue is selling transistors to a company that’s responsible for making pacemakers that are known to cause death. There is also the issue of the lack of testing the company does prior to pacemakers going into patients. Although it seem acceptable to sell to the company knowing its ongoing issues and the lives of many are at risk. Some might think the risk over shadows the life saving advantage the technology has to offer. The Case Facts
There were two deaths that resulted from faulty pacemakers. The death of an infant, and patient who died when he yawned and the wire from the pacemaker became disconnected from his chest. The maker of the transistor has a responsibility to step up and act on behalf of their shareholders and protect their investments. The argument from the company who made the pacemaker in regards to their business and the lives of people who was in need of pacemakers may have some relevance that the company must start by considering their duty to serve in the best interest of their shareholders. Utilitarian Ethical Problem
The supplier is faced with the dilemma of continuing to sell the transistors to the company that makes the pacemakers. The Utilitarian ethical issue is what action taken by the transistor company will result in the greatest good for the most people. The issue can be looked at from two different utilitarian points, the act of utilitarian or rule utilitarian. Using act utilitarianism, the issue is measured solely by asking if the one particular act does the most good for the most people. If the company sells transistors to the pacemaker company, they risk litigation. Litigation would possibly have a negative impact on the company’s finances and of course hurt the shareholder. Continuing to sell would provide a profit both the transistor and the pacemaker business. Ultimately they would be saving lives of heart patients who need the pacemakers to live. If they choose to sell, they would run the risk of pain to their shareholders, but guarantees profits for both companies, positive impact for both company’s shareholders and the patients who need the pacemakers. Jeremy Bentham’s Advice
Utilitarism is an ethical theory that proclaims that the morally right course of action in any given situation is the one that produces the greatest amount of pleasure over pain for everyone affected (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell 2008). According to Jeremy Bentham, utilitarism is the right action should result in the maximum happiness for the maximum number of people. In this case, the supplier not supplying the company with the transistors would not result in the maximum number of people being happy. The death of two people does not outweigh the good the pacemakers will do for the maximum number of people that need them. Jeremy Bentham would advise the supplier to continue to supply the pacemaker company with the transistors. There continued business with the pacemaker company, will do more good. Utility Test
“For the utility test (or “Utilitarian Principle”), the consequences or outcomes determine what is right or wrong. For this principle the ends justify the means: an action is right if it creates the best overall outcome” (Hamilton, 2009). Step A asks the question “Are we maximizing good and minimizing harm for all those affected” (Hamilton, 2009). Before making drastic decisions, there are always good and bad consequences to the outcome. In this case, the company thought that they would be maximizing good if they would have discontinued selling pacemaker equipment to other companies, because if the equipment became faulty, their company would be held liable. On the flip side, the company involved thought that the distributing company would have caused great harm because they were the only company that sold these products and if it were discontinued; people who depended on this equipment would eventually suffer.
Step B asks the question “why is utility a valid way to decide right and wrong” (Hamilton, 2009). In the Sole Remaining Supplier case, continuing to supply pacemaker equipment would have made the most happiness, because instead of thinking about the lives that were lost, the maximum number of lives that would be saved has more weight. Only thinking of one group being affected by the outcome of the supplier’s decision, everyone is on equal ground and the happiness of the biggest group, makes the hard decision, the right decision. Step C is to apply the test, this is done in four steps (Hamilton 2009). Step one, identify the alternative actions that are possible and the persons and groups who will be affected by these actions. In this case, the alternative action would be to not supply the pacemaker company. Which would affect the company’s shareholders. Or supply the pacemaker company with the transistors, which affect the pacemaker company and the patients who need them. Step two; determine the benefits and costs to each person or group affected.
The costs for the shareholder of the supply company is not major, being the only supplier left, they stand to make money. The cost to the pacemaker company would be great, if patients continue to lose their lives. The cost to the patients of course, is the loss of life. Step three; select the action with the greatest benefit over costs. The greatest benefit in this case, is the patients that will receive the pacemakers and lives will be saved. Step four, ask what would happen if the action were a policy. The policy for this case, for the supplier would be to assure the pacemaker company has strict testing policies in place for testing the pacemaker, before the sell transistors to them. This policy would protect the company and put their shareholders minds and pockets at ease. Step D, is draw a conclusion. It can be seen as unethical if the supplier sells to the pacemaker company, without any regard to the patients who would receive them, if they are faulty. The affects long term would damage the supplier’s integrity and possibly cause major damage to the company, while attributing to more deaths. The Common Good Test
The Sole Remaining Supplier suits the Common Good Test for me. The supplier would be doing the patients a service by continuing to sell the transistors to the pacemaker company. Although there have been a few deaths associated with the pacemakers, this is a much needed medical devise. The outcome of the supplier continuing this service, serves better for the maximum number of people, so the company has the obligation to the patients in need of the pacemakers. The fact that there have been deaths due to faulty pacemakers, does not conflict with the much greater need of patients in need of the break through device. If the company implemented policies to make sure proper testing would be conducted, the risk of deaths would be far less. The supplier would be doing a public service that would benefit those in need of the pacemakers. Comparison
The Utility Test weighs the ethical behavior of the supplier selling the transistors to the pacemaker company. The Common Good Test weighs the company’s behavior in relation to their relationship to the public in need of their service. While both of these tests have a responsibility to the public, they both have the same basic outcome, what’s good for those in need of their product. While the Utility Test is more informative, it goes into the most detail about the behavior of the company. The Utility Test asked the best question, what is ethically right and what is wrong. Conclusion
The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier was one of a company supplying a product need to sustain life. The unfortunate deaths caused the board members to have to make a decision that would not only affect their business, but that would affect the life or death of patients receiving the pacemakers. In big business there is always the question of ethics, do we do what’s right solely for the livelihood of the company, or do what’s for the patients.
1.O.C. Ferrell, John Fraedrich, Linda Ferrell, (2006), Business Ethics 7th Edition 2.Brooke Hamilton, (2009), Utility Test