The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier
State the moral issue(s)in this case.
Is there conflict that could be damaging to people? What does it do to people as persons who have dignity, rights, and hopes for a better life together?
What are the facts in the case? What are the relevant facts of the case?
What individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome?
What is at stake for each? Are there other important stakeholders in addition to those directly involved?
Identify and evaluate alternative actions from the various moral perspectives applying the questions suggested in the article “A Framework For Ethical Decision Making”.
Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm?
Which option respects the rights and dignity of all stakeholders? Even if not everyone gets all they want, will everyone still be treated fairly? Which option would promote the common good and help all participate more fully in the goods we share as a society, as a community, as a company, as a family? Which option would enable the deepening or development of those virtues or character traits that we value as individuals? as a profession? as a society? ? Using one of the theoretical approaches from “A Framework for Ethical Decision Making” or your textbook explain what you would do in this case.
The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier
The heart pacemaker is a modern wonder. The device has a timer that resets itself every time the patient’s heart beats. If the heart does not beat on schedule (say, within 1.2 seconds), the pacemaker gives a stimulus that causes a heartbeat.
But the technology was not always so sophisticated, and its early limitations form the background of this true story, told to Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Director Thomas Shanks, S.J., by one of the participants. Although the events happened 20 years ago, the ethical issues they raise are still relevant.
It’s 1975, and you are on the board of directors of a company that makes transistors. Among the many companies with whom you have a contract is one that makes heart pacemakers.
Pacemaker technology is in its infancy. When doctors implant a pacemaker, the patient’s normal heartbeat is disabled, and he or she relies entirely on the device. If it fails, the patient’s heart stops. Doctors are not very adept at installing the pacemakers, which are extremely delicate; there is even a story of a person yawning deeply, pulling the pacemaker wire in his chest, and dying.
After that and many similar incidents, the board begins to reconsider whether your company should sell to the pacemaker company. Members of the board feel this situation is a major lawsuit just waiting to happen and your company, as well as the company you supply, will be liable. In addition, you feel the specs the pacemaker company uses to test the transistors are not very strong.
You and the board decide to get out of the business before it’s too late. You tell the pacemaker company representatives about your conclusion, and they respond, “You can’t stop selling us the transistors. You are the sole remaining supplier for us. Everyone else has backed out for the same reasons you’re giving. If you don’t sell us the product, we’ll go out of business. Pretty soon, no one will be making heart pacemakers, and many people need them. Without the pacemaker, people don’t even have a chance.”
You take that information back to the board. People around the table have different opinions. One person says, “This is a bad deal, and it isn’t our problem. We don’t make enough on this sale to make the risk worthwhile.” Another person says, “We don’t know how other companies use the transistors we sell them; why should we be concerned about this one? What about that baby who died when the transistor in the incubator failed? We didn’t know how that company was using the transistor.” Another person says, “I think we’re missing the real issue here. Don’t we have an ethical obligation to sell the product to the pacemaker company? What will happen if we don’t sell to them?” Another person says, “Give me a break. Our only obligation is to our shareholders. And how did we get so stupid that we’re the last source? I’m telling you, we don’t need this.” Finally, the chair of the board says, “OK. Let’s make a decision.”
What do you do?
This case was written by Thomas Shanks, S.J., Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
The first three articles provide theoretical perspectives for resolving or about moral reasoning. The fourth article provides an actual case study entitled, “The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier”. http://www.scu.edu/ethics/dialogue/candc/cases/supplier.html
Read the following theoretical articles first:
? A Guide to Moral Decision Making
? An Ethical Framework for Business Behavior
? Markkula Center:A Framework for Ethical Decision Making
After reading the theoretical perspectives try applying these ideas, answering the following set of questions, as they apply to the case study, The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier.
? State the moral issue(s)in this case.
? What are the facts in the case?
? Identify and evaluate alternative actions from the various moral perspectives applying the questions suggested in the article “A Framework For Ethical Decision Making”.
? Using one of the theoretical approaches from “A Framework for Ethical Decision Making” or your textbook explain what you would do in this case.
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