Measuring Our Worth

When designing their products, organizations are expected to ensure that the new item will not be harmful to human beings once it is ready for use. However, many companies ignore this fact and continue to sell products that are harmful to human beings, so long as they are able to generate profits from them. For instance, Ford Motor Company allowed its Pinto to remain in the market even after it realized that the gas tank on the rear end of this product had a tendency of exploding in accidents, causing several injuries and deaths. The company argued that the cost of settling injury and death cases was lower than the cost of modifying the Pinto to prevent it from causing harm to human beings. Many organizations around the world engage in activities that shows how much they devalue human life. According to Brahm (2001), it is extremely hazardous to make decisions that only consider the instrumental value of life while ignoring the intrinsic value of life.

Businesses have every reason to consider both the intrinsic and instrumental value of human life when making decisions. Although putting both aspects into consideration might be extraordinarily difficult, the best way through which companies can arrive into the right conclusion is through ethical decision making (May, 2012). It is important to begin the decision making process by gathering important facts that surround the issue at hand. This should be followed by identifying the ethical issues that might arise from the case. The next step should involve identification of parties that are likely to be affected by the issue as well as its possible consequences. From here, a company should think about alternative approaches that can be used to solve the problem while putting relevant rights and principles into consideration. This should be followed by separating the “right” actions from the “wrong” ones as this is what ethics generally entails. The final step in the ethical decision-making process is to decide on the most appropriate course of action which will act as the final conclusion (May, 2012).

When making the final decision, businesses must be able to distinguish between the intrinsic as well as the instrumental value of a human life in order to avoid considering only the instrumental value. According to Brahm (2001), intrinsic value of something is the worth that exists in its very existence. For instance, human life has an intrinsic value because it is worthy in itself. On the contrary, something is considered to have an instrumental value if it leads to something else that has an intrinsic value. Those who take human life to have instrumental value assume that life is not valuable in itself but it can be used to get something valuable (Brahm, 2001). In many instances, businesses have used human beings as sources of labor in order to earn profits. However, they should think of human life as something that has an intrinsic value when they are making decisions, especially it when comes to matters that affect human life directly.

When both intrinsic as well as the instrumental value of human life are put into consideration during decision-making process, I prefer that the conclusion made should maximize benefits and minimize harm as stated by the ethical principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence respectively (Evans and Rooney, 2010). Furthermore, the conclusion made should direct an organization towards taking an action that promotes survival of human species as described by Consequentialism ethical theory (Mulgan, 2001). Therefore, in Ford case, although the cost of recalling and modifying the Pinto was higher than the cost of settling injury and death cases, the company was supposed to take an action that promotes survival of the human species.


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