Monday, October 26, 2015

Can Volkswagen Ever Be Trusted?

Volkswagen's faulty emissions scandal negatively impacted much more than air quality ("VW Employees Responsible for 'Dieselgate:' Where's the Legal, Moral, & Ethical Compass?" Philadelphia Business Journal, October 5, 2015)? Stanley W. Silverman, article author and Chairman of the Board at Drexel University College of Medicine, notes that it is likely that VW caused deaths as a result of adding to the air some "10 to 40 times more nitrogen oxides (NOx) than allowed by regulation" (see also: Cheating Cost 5 to 20 Lives a Year, Data Show from, October 6, 2015). Silverman suggests that a large number of employees had to know about this deliberate deception.

Discussion Questions:
  1. If you knew that your company was engaging in deliberate illegal acts, would you act with honor and blow the whistle? Why or why not?
  2. Should VW change its name? Would it make a difference in getting people to buy its vehicles? Why or why not?
  3. Should VW executives be fined instead of the company itself? Why or why not?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hacking the Astros: How Unethical Actions Affect Baseball

An alleged security breach of the Astros by the Cardinals may demonstrate that some have not learned ethical lessons from recent sports scandals ("St. Louis Cardinals Hacking Allegations Raise Ethical, Encryption Concerns, Stanford Law Expert Says," Stanford Report, June 18, 2015)? A Stanford University corporate legal expert suggests that Major League Baseball should be proactive and run its own investigation to demonstrate a commitment to fair play.

Discussion Questions:
  1. What punishment, if any, should players on the field receive for non-players who work for the Cardinals organization attempting to get an unfair advantage by stealing proprietary information from another team?
  2. Do you think sports teams are willing to do anything to win, even if actions are illegal or unethical?
  3. Do you think sports teams regularly get current players to disclose inside information about former teams for which they played? Is it just part of the game? Is it ethical?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Experimental Drugs May Come to Patients with Few Other Options

Should patients with few other treatment options for serious conditions or diseases get a chance to use unproven experimental drugs if they are not part of a research study ("J & J Creates Ethics Panel to Allow Access to Experimental Drugs," CBC/Radio-Canada, May 7, 2015)? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes requests for "compassionate use" unproven medicine for patients with incurable or chronic conditions, though federal law in the United States does not allow corporations to distribute unsanctioned pharmaceuticals. The newly formed approval group at Johnson & Johnson (J & J), including medical personnel, bioethicists, and "patient representatives" will decide who gets the untested drugs now instead of individual medical researchers. Personal physicians can request access to experimental drugs for their seriously ill patients through a J &  J phone number or web site.

Discussion Questions:
  1. The article goes on to state that there will be legal issues if patients experience negative or no effects from the unproven drugs. If you had to serve on the ethics board to decide whether a patient should be able to take an untested drug, what factors would you consider when making a decision? Would you give an unproven drug to someone who is terminally ill, believing that they have a very small chance to improve with any medication?
  2. Is it fair to give seriously ill people false hope with these experimental drugs? There is no mention of the cost of these untested drugs. Do you think the drug companies should make these drugs free or at low cost if users are required to report their results which would benefit the pharmaceutical industry and potentially speed up the process for getting the drugs approved?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Non-Prescribed Study Drugs Promote Academic Dishonesty?

Should the illegal use of prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin by college students to improve studying sessions be considered as academic dishonesty ("Illegal Study Drug Use on the Rise, Not Addressed by Universities," USA Today, November 18, 2014)? The Academy of Medical Sciences in Great Britain suggested that colleges and universities should prohibit non-prescribed "academic performance-enhancing stimulants" because they are akin to athletes taking steroids to improve athletic performance.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do you think taking non-prescribed drugs to improve course study sessions should be considered as academically dishonest? Why or why not?
  2. Although the article doesn't address the risks of taking these drugs, a CNN report mentions that they can cause "psychological and physical dependence, sleep difficulties, restlessness, headaches, irritability and depressed feelings." If more students knew about this potential harm, would they think twice about using the drugs without a prescription? Why or why not?
  3. Should student use of non-prescribed stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin be treated simply as a drug offense? Why or why not?