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Posted on May 6th, 2014, by

Step 2. Analysis of costs and benefits for each alternative and for all groups and persons affected.

For the first scenario, the decision of the company to continue selling transistors might lead to deaths of the patients because of defects in the technology, risks of lawsuits for both companies and significant losses for all involved parties. The only positive aspect of this situation could be the potential benefit to healthcare industry due to future improvement of the technology.

For the second scenario, the company selling transistors will find itself in a secure position, since it would no longer be exposed to the risk of lawsuits. Overall good to the employees and management of this company would be maximized in this case. The doctors would not have to install heart pacemakers and risk their reputation, so they would also find themselves in a better position compared to the first scenario. The company manufacturing heart pacemakers will have to leave the business (Shanks, 1996), so for its employees and managers the second scenario will lead to negative consequences. The patients would no longer be exposed to high risks associated with the heart pacemakers, but they will be exposed to the risks of dying from heart diseases instead, so for these people and their relatives both scenarios would probably lead to equally negative consequences.

In the third scenario, the company producing transistors will be neither in bad, nor in good situation: it will spend additional costs and time on setting the requirements, thus reducing the litigation risks. The consequences for the company producing heart pacemakers will also be neutral: it will have to increase research financing and comply with the requirements of the supplier; at the same time, the company will stay in the business, and its business will be less risky. Doctors will need to participate in training before accessing heart pacemakers, but they will also reduce their litigation risks. Finally, patients with heart diseases will find themselves in a better position, because the risks for them will be reduced.

Step 3. Selection of the action which maximizes overall benefits for all involved parties

The first scenario leads to overall negative outcome (slightly mitigated by the potential of the technology). The second scenario is associated with negative outcome for the company manufacturing heart pacemakers, with positive outcomes for transistor supplier and doctors, and negative outcome for patients; overall, there is a slightly negative outcome for all stakeholders. Third scenario leads to slightly positive outcomes, since all parties except patients will find themselves in a neutral position, and the patients would definitely be better off in the third case. Thus, according to utilitarianism, third alternative should be chosen in this case.

Step 4. What would happen, if the solution at step C were a common policy for similar situations?

Although the decision to continue selling the transistors (with additional requirements to the quality of transistors, to the quality of manufacturing and installation of heart pacemakers and to doctor trainings) is optimal in the case of the sole remaining suppliers, this decision would not be good if it were used for all similar situations. For example, in situations where there were a competing technology with better effect on the patients’ health, it would be more ethical from utilitarian point of view to stop selling transistors. Thus, every situation should be considered separately to achieve an optimal ethical decision.

Step D. Drawing a conclusion.

In the long-term period, the actions of the third scenario are likely to lead to the maximization of good for all involved parties, because additional requirements to the quality of the transistors, quality of the devices and medical training for those who will be installing heart pacemakers allow to mitigate most risks in this case, and lead to further development and improvement of the technology. Thus, it is the most ethical decision in the case of the sole remaining supplier.

3. Common good test

Although utilitarian approach is one of the most often used principles in business ethics, and proved to be effective means for analyzing various ethical dilemmas, in the case of the sole remaining supplier utilitarian approach is not the best choice of ethical instrument, because it involves analysis of the consequences of long-term research issues, which cannot be evaluated in a precise way. Thus, the consequences of the choices discussed above are rather vague, and it is reasonable to apply a different ethical test. In this case, the common good test is highly appropriate, because the heart pacemaker technology is a promising healthcare advancement, which might greatly benefit the whole society. Ethical approach of the common good urges decision-makers consider the impact of their actions not only on the stakeholders involved, but also on the society in general and on the common good of all people. The concept of common good includes the effect of the decision on different social institutions, such as political, economical, judicial, healthcare, educational and other systems.

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