Business Ethics and the Merck & Co., Inc. Case Study

2745 Words Apr 29th, 2004 11 Pages
Susan Gustafson

Business Ethics

Mark Matthews, Ph.D.

February 10, 2004

Applying Ethics to the Merck Case

The purpose of my essay is to show whether the business decisions made by the management team of Merck pharmaceutical are ethical. Using corporate assets for charitable purposes, the company manufactures and distributes a drug called Mectizan at no charge to impoverished nations and their inhabitants.

I will expound on three ethical theories and then analyze the Merck case according to each theory, summarizing how the authors and proponents of each theory would position themselves regarding this case. The three theories that will be used to examine the case are John Stuart Mill's ethical theory of Utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant's
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This balance, utilitarian promoters believe, will lead to efficiency and the best use of scarce resources. Efficiency, according to utilitarians is a means to maximize human good. In business, management by objectives and cost-benefit analysis are the result of a strong utilitarian influence.

Utility can be hard to measure and this is one of the shortcomings of the theory. A utilitarian response to measuring utility is to ask if actions leave society better off as a whole, or would the actions be detrimental?

Utilitarians would view the actions of Merck's management to distribute the corporate drug Mectizan for free to third world countries as being ethical. They would say that this action leaves society better off as a whole and causes the greatest good for mankind. They would say giving the drug to cure sick and suffering people would cause great amounts of happiness and pleasure for these sick people and alleviate tremendous amounts of pain to many suffering bodies. Suffering people, as well as their families and nations, would be better off than they would if the drug had not been provided them. They would become healthier and able to become more productive in society. Human resources are considered scarce and valuable (the people themselves) and protecting them for the betterment of society would be the optimal decision to make.

Mill would say this is the correct decision for Merck to make as they have large amounts of excess capital and

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