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Heinz Dillema (Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development) [Sep. 3rd, 2008|09:16 pm]
Wise Tits
wise_tits
[d_h_belmont]
Take some time to think about this scenario:

A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife.

Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?



Do you have your answer, dear reader?
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Is it in your noggin?
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Okay then.
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Most people will respond by saying he should either not break the law or go ahead because the needs of the woman outweighs the need for the druggist to have his precious money.

Doesn't anybody wonder what the druggist is going to do with the medicine? Yes, he says "I am going to make money from it.", but is it possible that in this process of making money, he's going to try to make it available to everyone, like sell it to Pfizer or some shit and that he needs to develop a prototype right away for their labs to look over? Which in turn might make it easily accessible to everyone else? What the druggists motivations are would certainly have a huge factor in deciding whether or not I smash his pharmacy to bits and steal the drug or tell my wife "Sorry, dude!".

Doesn't anybody wonder about the long term rammifications of commiting that crime? Sure, you go to jail, but the woman lives, but what if indeed by taking this drug, it results in taking it out of the hands of countless people with this same disease? This radium the druggist discovered may be in such a small quantity, that he NEEDS to send it off to a big company so they can find more of this type of radium, and the drug is the proof that more will be needed, but he can't find it.

Of course, the motiviations of the druggists are purely speculative, but surely that would cross Heinz's mind.

If I were Heinz, I'd have to find out what the deal was for the druggist to do something so shameful that it could destroy his reputation. If I failed to learn anything, I'd have to follow my heart. If I felt his reasoning was selfish, he can kiss his medicine good bye and I'll face the consequences without hesitation. I'm sure my wife's live would be worth far more to myself and to others than the druggist's money.

LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: jesuismeursault
2008-09-04 01:30 pm (UTC)
this all reminds me of kant, that nutty deontologist. i think this situation is discussed ad nauseum in every ethics class, though it never fails to create interesting arguments. for kant, ethics is a question of carrying out certain duties. you also need to abide by the categorical imperative (basically kant's golden rule: only do as you would have others do). the problem i have with such systems is that they only work when things are black and white. should you kick an unsuspecting person down a flight of stairs? no, of course not. you have a duty to conduct yourself as though you were willing all men/women to act as you do. so, obviously, you would not inflict horrible injuries on a stranger for no reason. however, things get stickier when you have two conflicting duties. this is the gray area. in your example, the man had two duties: one is not to steal (you don't want this to become a universal maxim, after all); the other is to take care of his wife. thus the man had two choices, based on both duties: either do not steal the medicine (therefore willing that stealing would not become a universal maxim) and his wife dies, or steal the medicine to save his wife's life (thus willing that taking care of a family member when you are able to become a universal maxim). which to choose? either you have to admit that all duties are not equal, or you have to go on a case by case basis. either way, kant is in trouble. i've left myself open to the condemnation of kant scholars due to my oversimplification of his deontological viewpoint, but oh well.

anyway, i would also have stolen the medicine. i wouldn't have felt badly about doing it either, especially if it would have saved my spouse's life. in kantian terms, my duty to take care of my spouse outweighed whatever duty i had to respect other people's property by not stealing it. and, yes, i would will saving the life of a family member to be universal maxim.
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From: d_h_belmont
2008-09-04 07:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah, these sorts of things have lots of criticisms, and rightly so... One criticism came from someone in my class who was well known to be very religious, and I think he was mildly insulted that the Kohlberg scale placed him on a lower development than, well... you and me. Naturally, he would have said he would have let the wife die because "thou shalt not steal". I thought it was kind of funny.
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[User Picture]From: jesuismeursault
2008-09-04 09:01 pm (UTC)
yeah, i had a kid like that in my ethics class too. the question we were asked was the one you actually find in kant's work, if i recall correctly. your friend comes running over to your house all upset and tells you that a homicidal maniac is chasing him. you let your friend in your house to hide and he goes upstairs to conceal himself. the homicidal maniac follows your friend's trail to your house. he asks you if you have seen your friend. the question is: do you tell the maniac where your friend is or do you lie? obviously, you lie. but according to kant, you cannot will lying to be a universal maxim. so, according to kant, you would dime out your friend to the maniac so as to uphold your duty not to lie. oh, to make it even better, you know the person is going to kill your friend if he finds him. this is what the kid in my class said he would do in the situation. so, he was a perfect little kantian. his friends were all dead, however.

ethics is a sticky business. i don't think there can be any hard and fast rules. the consequentialists have just as much trouble as the deontologists. unfortunately, you have to look at it on a case by case basis. the golden rule (do unto others, blah, blah, blah) is not a bad guide to life, and we all learned that in preschool...
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From: d_h_belmont
2008-09-04 10:59 pm (UTC)
Mr. Spock would have exaggerated, omitted, or said something that sounded like one thing when he was really... okay, I'll stop right there. I suppose one could lie with the truth. What would Kant say to that?

Why is lying such a horrible thing anyway? Did you ever see "The Dark Knight"? Sometimes, we need more than "truth". I agree with you; there can't be any "hard and fast" rules and everything is indeed "case by case", which is why I typically oppose mandatory sentencing for crimes, regardless of how heinous they are.
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[User Picture]From: jesuismeursault
2008-09-05 05:13 am (UTC)
the dark knight is killer. i agree that, in certain situations, lying can be quite beneficial and lead to the "greater good." does that make it right? i don't know. i do know that i try not to lie, but will if necessary. i guess i'm not a good kantian. i tend to lean more towards the deontology of sartre, who looks at it as a question of right instead of duty. do i have the right to act in the way that i do, given that there are other people in the world. if i act, i must act for all men/women. it sounds suspiciously like kantian deontology, but it's different, i assure you. haha. the nuances of the argument are only being neglected because they've been forgotten.
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[User Picture]From: hahahasyyke
2008-09-05 12:05 am (UTC)
Well, honestly, I'm an asshole. I would have taken the medicine regardless of any possible reasoning for him charging $2000 or whatever -

I know this is far from the point of the post, but if he were wanting to send it off to make more to save more people, I have a hard time believing $2000 is the big ticket; What if Heinz easily raised that money for that drug? All bets for the future of curing cancer with this drug are off? If he isn't ready to get rid of the drug, then it shouldn't be known to the public that it exists. That's asking for trouble.
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[User Picture]From: jesuismeursault
2008-09-05 05:15 am (UTC)
hahaha. i agree. his big mouth got him robbed. that's a life lesson he won't forget.
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