The following ethical scenario was obtained from


You are an engineer charged with performing safety testing and obtaining

appropriate regulatory agency or outside testing laboratory approvals of your

company’s product. The Gee Whiz Mark2 (GWM2) has been tested and found

compliant with both voluntary and mandatory safety standards in North America

and Europe. Because of a purchase-order error and subsequent oversights in

manufacture, 25,000 units of GWM2 were built that are not compliant with any

of the North American or European safety standards. A user would be more

vulnerable to electric shock than from a compliant unit. Under some plausible

combinations of events, the user of the bad unit could be electrocuted. Retrofitting

these products to make them compliant is not feasible because the rework costs

would exceed the profit margin by far. The company agrees that because of this

defect the agency safety labels will not be attached to the bad units, as per the

requirements of the several agencies. Only two options exist: (a) Scrap the units

and take the loss, or (b) sell the units. An employee of the company notes that

many countries have no safety standards of any kind for this type of product. It is

suggested that the bad units be marketed in these countries. It is pointed out that

many of these nations have no electrical wiring code; or if codes exist they are not

enforced. The argument is thus advanced that the bad GWM2 units are no worse

than the modus operandi of the electrical practice of these countries and their

cultural values. Assume that no treaties or export regulations would be violated.

a. What would be your recommendation?

b. Suppose one of the countries under consideration was the country of origin

for you or your recent ancestors. Would this affect your recommendations?

c. Now suppose you are not asked for a recommendation, only an opinion. What

is your response?

d. Suppose it is suggested that the bad units be sold to a third party, who would

very likely sell the units to these countries. Your comments?

e. You are offered gratis one of the bad units for your use at home, provided that

you sign a release indicating your awareness of the condition of the unit and

that it is given to you as a test unit. Assume you cannot retrofit it and that the

product could be very useful to you. Would you accept the offer?

f. Suppose it is suggested that the offer stated in part (e) be made to all

employees of the company. Your comments?

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