Ethics Assignment for MA 132
Choose one of these cases and write a 200-250 word (approximately one-half page, single-spaced) essay discussing the ethical issues involved. Indicate which case you are writing about at the top of the page. Your essay answer will be evaluated primarily on relevance, thoughtfulness, and understanding of the ethical issues we addressed in class.
Case 1: Haiti refused a donation of tens of thousands of doses of cholera vaccine
in late 2010. The vaccines could have helped limit the spread of an epidemic that
went on to claim more than 6,600 lives. It was estimated that vaccinating
just 5% of Haitians could have reduced the number of cases by 11%.
The rejection was justified at the time by concerns over the social
tensions that could be sparked by distributing limited quantities only to
some Haitians. Do you think the justification is ethically correct?
Case 2: Long ago, doctors drew a blood specimen from you as part of treating minor anemia.
Unknown to you, the sample was stored. Now researchers plan to use stored samples from
you and many other people to look for genetic factors that may influence anemia. It is no
longer possible to ask your consent. Modern technology can read your entire genetic
makeup from the blood sample. Your identity is not attached to the blood sample; it is known only to come from (say) â€œa 20-year-old white female being treated for anemia.â€ Is it OK for them to use the sample for this research?
Case 3: A study randomly assigned abandoned children in Romanian orphanages to move to foster homes or to remain in an orphanage. All of the children would otherwise have remained in an orphanage. The foster care was paid for by the study. There was no informed consent because the children had been abandoned and had no adult to speak for them. The experiment was considered ethical because â€œpeople who cannot consent can be protected by enrolling them only in minimal-risk
research, whose risks do not exceed those of everyday life,â€ and because the study â€œaimed to produce results that would primarily benefit abandoned, institutionalized children.â€ Do you agree?
Case 4: Students sign up to be subjects in a psychology experiment. When they arrive, they are told that interviews are running late and are taken to a waiting room. The experimenters then stage a theft of a valuable object left in the waiting room. Some subjects are alone with the thief, and others are in pairsâ€”these are the treatments being compared. The researchers want to know if the subjects will report the theft. The students had agreed to take part in an unspecified study, and the true nature of the experiment is explained to them afterward. Do you think this study is ethically OK?
Case 5: The experimenters were finished with a study that evaluated three possible medical treatments for testicular cancer: No treatment, radiation, or chemo. Their finding was that the three essentially provide the same expected lifespan â€“ no medical reason to pick one over the others. They were about to brief the hospital big guys on their findings.
Everyone knew that the honchos tended to pick the middle option, when presented with several. Their boss had the researchers rearrange the options so that his own preference â€“ chemo â€“ appeared in the middle on their recommendation slide. The bug guys did end up choosing that option for the hospital, although how much was due to putting that option in the middle is unclear. How unethical was the bossâ€s action, and why?
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