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Exercise#3 Case Study on Morality

Posted on August 26, 2013 by nehakamal

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Moral dilemmas are posed often by conflicts of moral values which can be represented as either conflicts between different moral principles, or issues that are raised by the application of one moral principle (conflicting applications of a given moral principle, or questions concerning whether a principle applies at all). In each of the following, consider which of the principles that we have considered in class (honesty, promise-keeping, nonmaleficence, beneficence, autonomy, and equality) apply in these cases, and how they help to define the moral issues at stake. (Note: the task here is not to solve the moral dilemma, but to define the dilemma in terms of relevant moral principles). I would suggest that you write down your answers. Then check your answer according to analysis given in side: 1. Melinda’s father is suffering from a gradually worsening dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. She has a deep respect for her father, a man who has always felt a deep sense of personal responsibility and has valued his independence and sense of self- reliance. He still insists on making his own decisions, but lately he has suffered from significant memory loss, and this has caused Melinda to be concerned about his welfare. She is considering whether she should take greater responsibility for making important decisions about his treatment and his living situation, despite his father’s protests that he can take care of himself. 2. Jason is a lawyer who is currently representing Company Y in contract negotiations with Company X. The crucial meeting is today: if final agreements are not reached, Company X has said that they will end negotiations. Another client calls–a customer is suing her company for marketing a harmful product. She needs to talk with Jason over legal strategies in the case. Jason cannot help both client’s today, although both client’s clearly need his help. Jason The ethical question concerns primarily a conflict between the principles of autonomy and beneficence. Autonomy normally requires that we respect that decisions that individuals make concerning their own welfare, but in cases where someone clearly is unable to take care of themselves, the duty of beneficence would take precedence. This is a case of the “grey area,” where it is not so clear whether the father’s growing dementia is severe enough to justifyoverruling his own decisions for the sake, of his welfare.

This is a case of conflicting loyalties. The loyalty we have as moral agents based on special relationships to others, such as, in this case, professional-client relationships, can be understood as based in the principle of promise-keeping: we make explicit or implicit promises to our family, friends, business or professional associates, clients, etc., that we will faithfully work with them to achieve common ends and come to their aid in time of need. Such explicit or implicit promises may come into conflict, such as in this case. Another principle that can apply at such times is the principle of beneficence: if Jason’s help will aid one of his clients more significantly than the other, then that can be the basis for deciding where the stronger obligation lies.

as in other cases of international relations in war and peace. Dropping the atomic bomb on a populated area meant killing tens of thousands (a violation of the principle of nonmaleficence). 4.S. Mary James. which may result in their being harmed. then James. In the summer of 1945 Harry S. the Japanese were showing no sign of surrender. The historical and ethical issues of the case are complex. It appeared likely that to defeat Japan. The principle of honesty also is involved. Times are hard. In fact. and there is a significant danger that their health may be jeopardized if the situation continues.000 people out of work. but two moral principles that clearly apply in this case are the principles ofnonmaleficence and beneficence. it had the potential of saving the lives of many thousands of U. Truman. On the other hand. that has a chemical processing plant in James’ district. has just received confidential information that a Company X. She has been talking with a potential donor who is willing to give a very large sum of money to the charity. This involves a consideration of the principle of equality. and Board of Directors of the charity has stipulated that all current donations must go to these projects. but this donor is deeply prejudiced against Hispanics. but failing to release the information will mean that local residents will receive no warning of a potential danger to their health. 3. Complicating the issue is the question of whether a charity should take money from donors who place stipulations born out of personal prejudices on their donations. which would mean that although James does not lie. will not be lying to anyone. and still hotly debated. The primary issue involves a conflict in the application of the principle of nonmaleficence: releasing the information will harm the employees of the plant who will be out of a job. On the other hand. President of the United States. There are some 300 residents in the area. soldiers as well as tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians who would be lost in an invasion of Japan (principle of beneficence). This .weighs his obligations to both clients. The potential donor asks Milly directly whether any of the money that he would donate would go to such projects. But James’ constituents might have the expectation that any public official who had information concerning a public health risk would warn the public. The President has a responsibility to safeguard national interests. this would surely lead Company X to close the plant. In this case. a responsibility that can be understood to stem from a promise that the President makes to the nation upon the assumption of power. and very few donations are currently coming in. a conflict between the principles ofpromisekeeping and equality (justice) applies as well. While it was quite clear that Japan would eventually be defeated. Milly Thompson works for a charity organization that provides funds for inner city projects that help the poor. If James does not release the information. of course. Milly considers what she should do: lie to the donor or tell the truth. the principle of beneficencewould suggest that Milly should do what it takes to secure the donation for the sake of the good this will do for the poor. James is considering whether she has the moral responsibility to release the information or not. Currently the only projects that the charity is funding are projects in Hispanic neighborhoods. many of the current projects will have to be canceled. an invasion Japan would be necessary. and James makes no statement to the effect that there is no danger. a state representative. she may be thought at least to deceive the local residents by her failure to offer a warning. stipulations that may require in the future that the charity make decisions as to who they benefit on the irrelevant basis of the ethnic heritage of the beneficiaries. had a difficult decision to make. without this donation. and an Clearly the principle of honesty applies in this case: this principle would require that Milly tell the donor the truth. However such an invasion would take a devastating toll on both sides: estimates of losses on both sides ranged into the millions. and is not willing to give any money to projects in Hispanic neighborhoods. has not taken proper safety precautions to assure that the region around the plant is protected from dangerous contamination. which would put some 6. If James releases the information. On the other hand. 5. Company X has been threatening to close the plant in James’ constituency.

Tom’s attempt to save Steve would be praiseworthy on moral grounds. but it has implications with respect to how the principle of beneficence applies in the case. This is a prudential issue. David does not want to disappoint his son. a single father. but he knows he couldn’t attend the baseball game if he takes care of John’s daughter for the day. Although this prohibition was violated many times during WW II. 6. but only if the risk to Tom’s personal safety is not extreme and the prospect of saving Steve is not hopeless (the factual issue of risk pertains crucially to the moral issue of obligation here. They are part of a major offensive against the enemy in a conflict. even if such action would achieve military objectives. and he needs someone to look after his infant daughter. Complicating the issue is Steve’s insistence that he should be left to die. This case raises prudential and ethical issues that are interconnected. When one action is supported by two ethical principles and an alternative action is supported by one principle. Steve is apparently gravely wounded. This case involves a conflict between the ethical demands of promisekeeping and beneficence. 7. regardless of national status. As in case two above. but this does not mean necessarily that David’s prima facie obligation to John is stronger than his obligation to his son. Some consideration of the nature and importance of the prima facie obligations themselves is required. Tom and Steve become separated from the rest of their division when Steve is hit by shrapnel from an exploding mortar round. has promised his seven-year-old son that he would attend his son’s baseball game on Saturday. Tom must consider the risk that he would face in his attempt to save Steve. John. The principle of beneficence would require that Tom save Steve. If Steve is lucid enough to make a competent judgment. or is it born out of foggy thinking and a sense of hopelessness caused by his wounds? . The question is. applied strictly.invasion would surely mean a long protraction of the war. however. John. this provides no valid basis for the claim that it may be ignored in this case. Steve urges Tom to leave him and retreat to safety. a greater concern for the welfare of U. which promise is more significant? The principle of beneficence would require that David help out his friend John. But this. we might understand this case as involving a conflict of loyalties based on the explicit promise that David made to his son against the implicit promise to render aid in time of need that in part defines the ethical basis of David’s friendship with John. would require an equal consideration of the welfare of all people. an offensive that is failing–their division is being forced by the enemies counteroffensive to retreat. and might very well be futile. has just been asked to interview for a new job. a close friend. this does not necessarily mean that the first action defines our obligation. it would be a supererogatory act). One such limit long recognized in the history of warfare is that noncombatants in a conflict should not be targets of direct attack. then the principle of autonomy would suggest that his wishes should be respected. if the risk is great. it was thought. But here the factual issue of competence is the key–is Steve’s assessment of the situation a reasonable one. calls. If dropping the bomb was to be successful. On the other hand. it would have to be dropped on a populated area of some strategic importance to the Japanese. He tells David he’s tried everyone he can think of. by all sides. but knows that this will involve a grave risk to himself. who has been unemployed for six months. meant certain death for tens of thousands of Japanese. it was believed that such an act would not be likely to lead to a surrender. or responsibility would endorse. there are limits to such favoritism based on the principle of equality. and if he doesn’t show up today he loses his one firm prospect for employment. in this case. Tom believes that he might have a chance to save Steve if he can carry him to safety in time. David. Tom and Steve are fellow foot soldiers fighting a war. John’s wife is away on a trip. which. and David is his last hope. A drop on an unpopulated area might be tried. He wonders whether he should respect the wishes of Steve. Due to the success of the “Manhattan Project” there was an alternative: dropping an atomic bomb on Japanese territory might convince the Japanese generals of the futility of their position. which they surely were when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On Saturday morning. but not required–in other words. but because the Japanese military had shown an obstinate willingness to fight to the last. soldiers over the welfare of the Japanese. Believing that he is about to die in any case. but is conscious and appears lucid. of course.S.

a single man of 25. and needs to get to a hospital. When he comes over to the driver’s side to give the driver a ticket. The principle of equality would require that everyone living in a certain jurisdiction should be subject to the same laws. But in this case. which would preclude taking the time to fill out a ticket. This case involves a conflict between beneficence and autonomy. but this action is supported by the principle of beneficence. the principle of beneficence suggests a reasonable exception: in order to safeguard the health of the driver’s husband. once the husband has received medical attention. David should forget about the ticket and escort the couple to the nearest hospital. ethical egoism is a problematic theory that conflicts strongly with common moral intuitions. But typically failing to prevent harm (rather than directly causing harm) is understood by ethicists as a violation of the principle of beneficence. She considers the option of quarantining everyone in the building. thinking about the vacation he would take. requiring that Mark tell the truth. David is a state trooper on highway duty. Cheryl is a public health official for a local government. [One might be tempted to appeal to the principle of nonmaleficence in this case: if Cheryl does not impose a quarantine. is employed as a clerk in a bank. He fears for his job if his boss discovers the truth. The principle of honesty applies to the case. the principle of equality is involved. 10.] Finally. requiring immediate attention. Upon investigation. She has just been informed that a number of people at a local office building have become suddenly ill. A quarantine would severely restrict the lives of the people within the building (violating the principle of autonomy). His boss approaches him with a problem: there has been a confusion in the records of several of the depositors. although it may be a personal one. but this principle is not in conflict with any other principle representing a moral value that is pertinent to this case. But as we will see. 8. and Mark considers whether he should lie about the whole thing 9. since Cheryl must consider the interests of each occupant of the building and each person outside the building who might be in danger of being infected by the virus on an equal basis.Note: We will consider in this course one ethical theory that might be applied in this case to suggest that a moral question is at stake–ethical egoism. His boss asks Mark if he caused the confusion. which had the effect of crediting too much interest to some accounts and not enough to others. he could give t . He gives chase. she finds that their is a highly contagious virus that is being that is making people in the building ill. and the laws should apply equally to everyone who violates those laws. he determines that the medical emergency is real. she is thereby allowing the public to be harmed by the virus. Mark immediately realizes that he was the cause of the error: he wasn’t terribly careful the other day. He observes a car racing down the highway at 20 miles per hour above the legal speed limit. and pulls the car over.take the risk to himself and attempt to save Steve’s life. and she wants to keep the virus contained so that others outside the building are not contaminated.Actually this moral dilemma could be avoided without sacrificing the moral values of equality or beneficence: David could escort the couple to the hospital and then. Mark Thompson. On the other hand. which would confine the occupants of the building for days or weeks. David’s has the responsibility to give the driver a ticket. but wonders whether a quarantine. is justified by the threat that the virus poses to public health. since it would safeguard the health of the general public. This is actually not a moral dilemma. the driver explains that her husband is having a heart attack. although the principle is in conflict with a prudential concern of Mark’s: saving his job.