Case Study Analysis

Topics: Ethics, Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol Pages: 6 (1869 words) Published: January 1, 2006

The following case study of Johnson and Johnson will present how Johnson and Johnson faced a national crisis when in the fall of 1982 several bottles of Tylenol were laced with cyanide. This resulted in seven deaths around the Chicago area. The crisis became a national development almost immediately. Although the contaminated bottles were confined to the Chicago area this study will show how Johnson and Johnson managed the crisis on a national level.

The study is presented to evaluate how Johnson and Johnson dealt ethically with the crisis. The decisions made by Johnson and Johnson were methodical and in the best interest of the public while sacrificing millions of dollars and possibly the downfall of the company. We will present the highest ethical standards Johnson and Johnson gave to this crisis. We will also present other ethical alternatives that Johnson and Johnson could have taken in this ethical crisis. Symptom of the Problem

McNeil Laboratory was a division of Johnsons & Johnsons. In September 1982, seven people had died from a painkiller produced by the laboratory (Trevino & Nelson 2004). This painkiller was Tylenol and when ingested by those seven people in Chicago, they suddenly died. Tylenol, a leading painkiller, was under investigation to find out the root cause of these deaths. Root of the Problem

The root cause of this problem was later uncovered from the investigation. It was known at first what the root cause of the poisoning was, and if it was internal or external sabotage (Trevino & Nelson 2004). After several weeks though, the investigators determined that the batch of pills were laced with cyanide. Cyanide comes in many forms. It is a colorless and odorless gas or crystal, which acts rapidly if ingested or are being exposed to it (CDC 2004). Once the cyanide is inside your body, the following symptoms may occur, up to and including death. ·People exposed to a small amount of cyanide by breathing it, absorbing it through their skin, or eating foods that contain it may have some or all of the following symptoms within minutes: oRapid breathing

oNausea and vomiting
oRapid heart rate
·Exposure to a large amount of cyanide by any route may cause these other health effects as well: oConvulsions
oLow blood pressure
oSlow heart rate
oLoss of consciousness
oLung injury
oRespiratory failure leading to death
Source: CDC January 27, 2004
Key Players Involved

The key players involved in this scare were Johnson & Johnson, their division Laboratory McNeil, and CEO James Burke. At first know one knew exactly why the deaths occurred or who was involved, but accordingly to some articles, two off-duty firemen were listening to their police radio and heard that two deaths had occurred and Tylenol was used in both cases (Susan Tift 1982). Somehow someone had access to the cyanide outside of McNeil Laboratories, and administered it to various lots within stores. There was no way that anybody could have tampered with cyanide in McNeil's Laboratory because the cyanide was under strict control within that facility. Later, to regain the name of Tylenol with the public, a media genius was sought out to reinstate the image of Johnson & Johnson. With non-tampering bottles and coupons, plus public relations using the media as a tool, Johnson & Johnson made a come-back on the market. CEO James Burke handled the situation with ethical implication in mind. Even before he got with his managers at Johnson & Johnson, after the news broke of the scare, his trained staff knew exactly what needed to be done—pull all products off the shelves and halt production. This may have meant financial suicide, but it had to be done. The decision was based on their company credo which read like this:

"We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our...

References: CDC, Facts about Cyanide. Published January 27, 2004. Retrieved online, December 1, 2005.
University of Phoenix. (Ed.) (2004). Linda K. Trevino & Katherine A. Nelson. (2004) Managing Business Ethics, Chapter 8 (3rd Ed.) [University of Phoenix Custom Publishing]. Retrieved December 1, 2005, from University of Phoenix, Resource PHL/323-Ethics in Management Web site:
Tifft, Susan. "Poison Madness in the Midwest." Time. October 11, 1982. Retrieved online December 1, 2005.
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