The correct solution to the Heinz Dilemma

November 6, 2007 at 5:32 am Leave a comment

“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?[1]
 
Yes, but Heinz should have stolen the list of all the patients waiting for the drug and then given the drugs to them. Then he should have enslaved the Doctor making the drug and force him to cure all the world’s illnesses. This method would not only express universal human rights in it’s fullest extent (the highest form of moral reasoning in Kohlberg’s moral development), but it also breaks obedience, law and order, and self-interest. It’s funny that Kohlberg’s most developed moral person is remarkably similar to the heroes of American films. After all, is Heinz that different than the team in Sneakers? The protagonist of True Lies? What American movie doesn’t espouse the need to consistently break self-interest, authority, and other forms of our culture in order to achieve the moral good? Don’t these laws in themselves force upon exceptional situations that require their breaking? Is this a bad moral example? No, it’s expresses “justice” as a major moral, but enforces it with violence as a subtext. However, let’s look at reality. The Doctor who produced the drug could have asked Heinz to get a loan, after all he had 1000 USD why couldn’t he get the other other 1000 from a friend? Does his wife work? Isn’t her life worth such a small financial risk? What about The Doctor’s concerns? Isn’t he just as constrained by capitalism as Heinz? He probably invented this drug because he wanted to cure this illness, not because he wanted to make money, however with the money he receives he can cure another illness (at least theoretically). Finally, coming from the angle of the socialist, aren’t both Heinz and the Doctor supporters and victims of a society that refuses to guarantee all people an equal right to life? Isn’t Heinz’s wife ultimately at the center of a struggle, living in a society where he body is part of American law and a constant controversy, but her life is valued as such a mute point that no law exists to guarantee it’s existence, despite millions fighting for the lives of the unborn? But even considering the Heinz dilemma from the ethics of caring and focusing on the relations that bind Heinz, The Doctor, and his wife together one has to ask isn’t Heinz’s relation with his wife high enough to trump the relation between the doctor? I gotta go to class, but it’s a point worth considering.

Entry filed under: thinking.

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