Barbiturate and amphetamine addiction continues to give cause for national concern. Each year hundreds of thousands of pills manage to slip into the black market and are sold illegally, often to young people. Some observers, including the head of a congressional crime committee that spent two years probing the problem of illegal drug trafficking,' believe that the drug manufacturers cannot be blamed if their products are put to illegitimate use. Do drug manufacturers have any moral responsibility to ensure that their products are not put to such use? In this paper I am going to discuss the six different ethical theories, including utilitarianism, kantian ethics, natural law theory, virtue theory, care ethics, and symphonology.
The first theory that will be discussed is utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the moral doctrine that we should always act to produce the greatest possible balance of good over bad for everyone affected by our actions. The basic principle of utilitarianism is The Principle of Utility or The Greatest Happiness Principle, Itht states that we ought to do that which produces the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. In regard to the illegitimate use of prescription drugs, drug manufactures do have a moral responsibility to ensure that their products are not put to such use. Utilitarianism provides an objective way to resolve conflicts of self-interest and encourages a realistic and result oriented approach to moral decision making.
Using the utilitarian theory, the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people, is a challenge. If you were simply listening to the general public which is filled with hundreds of thousands of users they would say that the drug manufacnturers have no right getting involved because they know that if drug manufacturer’s did get involved that would make it more difficult for the users to obtain these drugs. If you take a poll of drug users family members, close friends, and anyone who may have had a prescription drug problem they would say that the drug manufactures need to get involved to make it more difficult for the users, especially minors, to get their hands on these drugs. The greatest amount of good would come about only if the people who truly needed these drugs for the purpose in which they were designed used them and the drugs were not being sold on the black market. Drug manufacturer’s should get involved at some level to regulate this situation but they should be held responsible for what happens when they land on the shelves of the stores. At that point, it is the stores responsibility. The manufacturers and store owners both have a moral responsibility.
Second is Kantian ethics. Kant believed that moral rules can, in principle, be known as a result of reason alone and are not based on observation. Kant held that only when we act from duty does our action have moral worth. Good will is the only thing that is good in itself. His categorical imperative states that an action is morally right if and only if we can will that the maxim (or principle) represented by our action be a universal law. There are three alternative formulations of the categorical imperative, the first two are the primary formulations. The first is that an act is right only if the actor would be willing to be so treated if the positions of the parties were reversed. The second is that one must always act so as to treat other people as ends, never merely as means. The third is the importance of motivation and of acting on principle, it is not enough to just do the right thing; an action has moral worth only if its done from a sense of duty that is, from a desire to do the right thing for its own sake. Kant’s ethics gives us firm standards that do not depend on results, it injects a humanistic element into moral decision making and stresses the importance of acting on principle and from a sense of duty.
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