In The Case of the Sole Remaining Supplier, the basic point of contention involves what is best for business as opposed to what is best for the common good of the people. After several fatal accidentals as a result of pacemakers that malfunctioned, the board of directors took up the question of whether or not the company should continuing supplying transistors to the company that produced the faulty pacemakers. Many on the board felt the whole situation was simply a massive lawsuit waiting to happen, as there had been deaths resulting from instances such as a pacemaker detaching because someone yawned too deeply. On the other hand, the device had been proven to save many lives, even if there were occasional accidents due to the infancy of the product. The board of directors was forced to consider if the risk of lawsuit outweighed providing a much-needed service to the public.
In regard to the business aspect of the case, it is very clear that the company was making a good deal of money selling the transistors. If not, they likely would have stopped long ago and would not still be considering selling them while risking a lawsuit. As a result, discontinuation of transistor production would undoubtedly lose the company money, but does the profit brought in from the transistors outweigh the settlement of a potential lawsuit? In essence, this is the question board members would have to answer when it comes to the business and legal issues of the case, where they had to determine the benefits and harms each course of action would produce. By discontinuing production, it would provide the best course of action for the affected parties, because it would reduce liability and also eliminate the risk of accidental death.
Moral issues were also prevalent during the discussion. Although there had been deaths resulting from the pacemakers, the device also helped save many lives as well. Although some died due to an accidental malfunction, there were also many others who went on to live long, healthy lives that would likely have passed away long ago without the device. Therefore, some felt the company was morally obligated to serve the public because they were the only producer of the transistor necessary to construct the pacemaker, which would be the option that both advances the common good and develops virtues in accordance with sound ethics and moral theory.
Ultimately, the ethical question to consider is, “What benefits and what harms will each course of action produce, and which alternative will lead to the best overall consequences?” In order to promote the common good, the best approach would be for the company to continue selling the transistors, but insist on stricter testing and also sign an agreement whereby the company producing the pacemakers assumes full legal liability for all malfunctions and deaths. This would benefit the transistor company markedly, as it would not only alleviate the risk of a lawsuit, but would also promote the common good by allowing for pacemakers to remain on the market. This approach allows for no favoritism or discrimination and treats everyone the same, as it allows the company to supply the product while reducing the risk of liability.
During the debate, members of the board commented on their positions. One claimed that the situation was a bad deal and that the company did not make enough to outweigh the risk of a lawsuit. While this approach is best for business issues, it is a poor moral outlook, as they are putting more stock in money than saving human lives. Another brought up the fact that they do not know how other companies use the transistors after the sale, which brings up an interesting point involving more thorough regulation of the industry. There were two other board members to comment as well. One used the moral argument, claiming that they have an ethical obligation to sell the product because they are the sole remaining supplier and many need the pacemaker to live a healthy life. Another called the company stupid for only having one source and said their only obligation was to its shareholders.
In conclusion, the best approach is a combination of the moral argument and the oversight argument. While it is important to ensure those in need have access to a potentially life-saving device, it is also essential to guarantee the transistor is being used properly, as it was acknowledged that testing was subpar. The company is, at least ostensibly, attaching its name to the product by supplying one of its primary components. This is the approach that was ultimately taken, as stated by Thomas Shanks, with the company continuing to sell the transistor, but only at the insistence that better testing is conducted.