Moral Dilemma Scenario

In Europe, a woman was near death from cancer. One drug might save her, a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The druggist was charging $2,000, ten times what the drug cost him to make. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, “No.” The husband got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife. Should the husband have done that? Why?

After the reading, the first step involves identifying and clarifying the dilemma. To do this the participants must clarify their own notions of justice. This also might be the first opportunity for many young people to think about issues, which they have heard but not really thought about.

The second step involves reading the first part of the first question to the participants. “Should Heinz steal the drug?” The young people are asked to form three groups according to their answers: Those who think Heinz should steal the drug, those who think he should not, and those who cannot decide. Grouping helps young people feel comfortable since it is easier to develop a sense of trust and cooperation in small groups. There can be more than one group within each group according to the number of students in the room. Next, dictate the remaining questions of the dilemma.

1. Should Heinz steal the drug? Why or why not?
2. If Heinz doesn’t love his wife, should he steal the drug for her? Why or why not?
3. Suppose the person dying is not his wife but a stranger. Should Heinz steal the drug for a stranger? Why or why not?

4. Suppose it is a pet animal he loves. Should Heinz steal to save the pet animal? Why or why not?
5. Why should people do everything they can to save another’s life?
6. It is against the law for Heinz to steal? Does that make it morally wrong? Why or why not?
7. Why should people generally do everything they can to avoid breaking the law? How does this relate to Heinz’s case?

Each group discusses and writes down the reasons in answer to the questions of the dilemma, then reports them back to the other groups.

During this process, try to encourage the participants to find each other’s perspective along with the perspectives of the people in the dilemma since role-taking is a prerequisite to the development of moral thinking. Also ask abstract philosophical questions such as, “Why are laws made? On what basis should one decide whether a law is just or unjust? If one decides to break a law intentionally, does a person have a responsibility to accept the consequences?” These questions invite students to explore the reasons behind their views and to interact with their classmates in a way that challenges their reasoning.

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