Se Regional Ethics Bowl Cases '05



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CASES FOR THE SECOND ANNUAL SOUTHEAST REGIONAL ETHICS BOWL at THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA, ST. PETERSBURG 140 7TH AVENUE SOUTH, DAVIS HALL ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2005 Sponsored by: For more information: (727) 553-4857 (813) 382-8170 [email protected] CASE 1: MEMORY RELIEVING DRUGS Laura often manages her family’s restaurant, helping to keep the books, monitor inventory and direct employees. Since there is a bar, Friday and Saturday nights are usually pretty busy, and Sundays are always the slowest day of the week for the restaurant. The employees show up an hour before opening to prep food and prepare for customers. On one particular Sunday, at 10:20 a.m., forty minutes before opening, a masked man enters the restaurant from the open back door. He herds the prep cook, line cook and dishwasher from the back of the restaurant to the front. He then forces these employees, the bartender and the waitress into the walk-in cooler, and commands Laura to take him to the safe and open it for him. As Laura fumbles with the lock, the man gropes her. After all is said and done, the gunman has gotten away with $10,000 and the employees’ sense of security. After the thief has gotten away and the police have been called, Laura goes to the hospital. While she was not raped, she was violated, and wants to see a doctor to help her cope. The doctor offers her a medication that will help to alleviate the memory of the event. Current theory posits that there are two aspects of memory. The first is consolidation, which involves the acquisition of a memory, and the second is reconsolidation, or the recollection of a memory. We often replay traumatic events over and over after they have occurred, and this helps to solidify them in our mind during the process of reconsolidation. “Consolidation involves brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) but not Zif268, whereas reconsolidation recruits Zif268 but not BDNF.”1 The drug suggested to Laura is a new formulation that would inhibit her production of the Zif268 protein, thereby preventing her from constantly recalling the traumatic events of the day. The doctor also informs her that some patients have benefited from taking Propranolol, which is commonly used to treat high blood pressure but also blocks adrenaline. “Studies have shown that if taken within six hours of a traumatic event, Propranolol can significantly reduce recall of that event.”2 1 rbfvrToken=6eb51a2cc6718c1c61a692364de966f4b0d8c952. 2 CASE 2: DRUG LAWS AND FINANCIAL AID Financial aid has helped to allow many students from poor backgrounds to attend college over the past few decades. However, current laws, particularly amendments passed in 1998 to the Higher Education Act (HEA) prevent some students with drug convictions in their backgrounds from receiving federal funds for school. Not all convictions count, but a conviction can interfere with funding. According to the Department of Education, a student is eligible for federal financial aid despite a conviction if: • If the student is under 18 when the offense occurred (except if she was tried as an adult) or the offense has been removed from her record. • If she has completed a federally endorsed drug rehab program since her last conviction. • If it has been at least one year since a single conviction for possession, or two years since two convictions for possession. • If it has been at least two years since a single conviction for selling drugs. According to these guidelines, rehabilitation programs can wipe the slate clean for students with drug-related offenses, but some say the current regulations are just too tough. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contends that drug related offenses already carry tough penalties and mandatory minimum sentences, and therefore, people should not be subjected to additional punishments through the withholding of assistance to attend school. There are several issues of equality involved in this debate, as well. The ACLU says withholding funds is an unfair punishment that unduly hurts the poor, since students of wealthier families will not endure quite the same hardship for the same crime. They also question the special emphasis on drug-related crimes, when violent crimes like rape and robbery do not affect financial aid. In addition, the ACLU contends that statistics from the Department of Justice show that minorities make up a much greater portion of drug convictions, despite the fact that they are proportionately no more likely to commit drug crimes than whites. Proponents of restricting drug offenders’ access to federal financial aid contend that these laws will deter crime and drug use on campuses and prevent taxpayers from subsidizing the education of criminals. These people see education and federal assistance as privileges that can and should be denied when an individual has acted criminally. Proponents of restrictions on drug offense limitations on aid may also support laws that prevent violent offenders from receiving aid. However, they are likely to point out that while crimes of violence are much more severe, the scope is often much smaller, and therefore drug dealers pose a greater risk to the university community at large. CASE 3: GANGSTA RAP In the past several decades, the content of gangsta rap has fallen under scrutiny for its negative effect on society, and youths in particular. In the 1990’s, 2 Live Crew’s obscene lyrics inspired the recording industry to implement “explicit lyrics” warning labels. Some say that gangsta rap is just music. It can be fun to dance to, and it is simply not the case that someone is going to go buy a gun and shoot someone because Snoop Dogg raps about “gatting” people. Others claim that the message rappers put into the world has more power than one might expect, and that the artists have a responsibility to use their influence in a positive light. Problems with lyrical content of music are not new, or exclusive to gangsta rap. In the 1980’s, heavy metal artists were blamed for suicides, though the most common argument was that these artists used subliminal messages to influence listeners. Today’s rappers, however, are blamed not for things that one might be able to infer, but things that actually are said, such as Eminem’s use of the term “faggot,” or Ice-T’s infamous song, “Cop Killer.” Eminem’s homophobia might not be sincere, as more recent recordings joke about enjoying watching another man dance; but whether or not his message changes over time, his words are to a good degree indelible. Ice-T’s lyrics present an interesting problem for the ethical observer. His supporters claim that, while he is rapping about violence against the authorities, he is justified in doing so due to the unethical and brutal treatment some African Americans suffer at the hands of those authorities. Moreover, some claim that “Cop Killer” is merely an allegory and a political statement—he is fictionally acting out in his lyrics things that he would not dream of endorsing in real life, much as Stephen King would never promote the crimes he writes about in his novels. But the reality is that this rapper’s lyrics promote killing police before they unjustifiably brutalize or kill civilians. CASE 4: HAZING Joseph Campbell, in his transcribed interview, The Power of Myth, notes that society today often lacks rites of passage that allow youths to know that they are adults. For Campbell, his rite of passage was permission to wear long pants, which was forbidden until adolescence. One rite of passage that has gained considerable attention over the years has been hazing. Hazing is an activity that takes many forms, including grueling physical tasks, potentially embarrassing activities, or drinking games, but is almost always promoted either as a means of choosing members of a group, or building group unity. Some claim that groups utilize hazing practices for purely sadistic purposes, however, and that no true benefit is gained from them. Many groups have been known to utilize hazing over the years, including military groups, fraternities/sororities, and sports teams. There are some beneficial initiation ritual alternatives, such as ropes courses or whitewater rafting trips, however, the term ‘hazing’ is used usually to refer to those forms of initiation that are considered more insidious. Proponents of hazing say that it offers recruits/members a sense of unity, competence, and self-awareness that simply would not be possible with tamer initiation rituals. However, with some rituals resulting in death or severe injury, others say that certain initiation rituals should be toned down or banned altogether.3 3 For more information on hazing, see CASE 5: SEMINOLE CASINOS Since the times of early settlement, interaction between European settlers and Native Americans has been tense. In the southeastern U.S., the Creek and Seminole tribes have had conflicts with European colonists since the 16th century, and territorial disputes continued until the 20th century, when the U.S. government began encouraging tribes to form their own governments. At the same time, federal financial support of the tribes diminished, and Native peoples were in many cases thrust into a capitalist society without sufficient means of support or ability to compete.4 Seminoles currently sustain their society through several different means, including agriculture, ranching, aquaculture, aircraft production, and gaming. Gaming, however, is one enterprise that is uniquely permitted by their culture and not that of the state governments that surround the reservation; this has been a source of contention between the two groups. In the 1980’s, several cases were brought against Native American tribes by state governments, and the Supreme Court sided with these tribes, favoring “tribal self-determination.”5 Many U.S. state governments have outlawed gambling, though the specific laws vary from state to state. In some respects Native American nations are recognized as sovereign entities residing within the bounds of U.S. borders, however, and for this reason they are in many cases granted the authority to create their own policies on gambling. In Florida, four out of the six recognized reservations have some form of gambling, and the Tampa reservation seems to be primarily composed of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Reservations were created as a means for tribes to maintain their heritage and independence, but some question whether the independence to own and operate gambling operations serves to preserve their culture. 4 5 CASE 6: SPECIALTY PLATES Personalized license plates have been around for many years, and often add an artistic way to support a cause. These plates come in different colors and designs, and often with a motto describing the charity that the additional fee goes to support. In other instances, the cause receives none of the proceeds from sale of the plates, but still gains some publicity. Some of the causes include protection of natural resources or endangered species, or support hobbies like H.A.M. radio or swing dancing. Other license plates make starker political or religious statements. Some of these include plates that commemorate Sons of Confederate Veterans, one that carries the slogan, “In God We Trust,” and some that read, “Choose Life.” South Carolina notably has two seemingly competing specialty plates: The first reads “In God We Trust,” which is not expressly tied to any church, and the other one says, “In Reason We Trust,” which is supported by the Secular Humanists of the Low Country. Other plates that support controversial causes are only offered on one end of the debate. In Florida and Alabama, the “Choose Life” license plate is distributed in support of a charity that helps to financially support women in “crisis pregnancies” who commit to having their children rather than having an abortion. This charity notes that it is currently working on the implementation of similar plates in 35 U.S. states. The National Organization for Women legally opposed the “Choose Life” plate before its distribution in Florida, but ultimately failed. A judge in South Carolina found that “Choose Life” plates were unconstitutional because they provided a forum for “pro-life” advocates, but not for “pro-choice” advocates.6 Many states have had different rulings on this issue, and the Supreme Court has refused to rule on such matters. 6 us=1&global=1&Title=&Body=choose+life&day=&month=&year=&Submit2=Find+the+Article! CASE 7: GOSSIP In an August 16, 2005, New York Times article by Benedict Carey, recent scientific findings indicate that gossip is not all bad.7 Carey writes, “Gossip not only helps clarify and enforce the rules that keep people working well together, studies suggest, but it circulates crucial information about the behavior of others that cannot be published in an office manual.” Researcher David Sloan Wilson states, “[gossip] is important in policing behaviors in a group and defining group membership.” Gossiping behaviors may even have sprung from primitive grooming behaviors that help bond communities of primates together. Carey writes that sneaking, lying, and cheating among friends are the most “savory” material. He also notes that in instances when the gossip is true and can help warn others of potential harms, many people, particularly men, feel as though a person should share this information with others, according to one study. Gossip can often serve malicious or negative purposes, however, and for this reason, many workplaces discourage it; common negative consequences include distracting workers, creating a hostile environment, or interfering with teamwork or team unity. In other instances, the gossip can serve a positive or useful purpose in helping newcomers understand the dynamics of an office, such as relationships that affect interactions or behavioral expectations, or potential dangers from unethical coworkers. But determining the validity of tales passed through the rumor mill and preventing a hostile or over zealous gossip can be difficult for anyone involved. 7 CASE 8: PRICE GOUGING The Southeastern U.S. has recently experienced some very active hurricane seasons, and with hurricanes often come shortages of fuel, plywood and generators, among other emergency supplies. Often stores specially order extra supplies, and when these come in either shortly before or after the storm, there are long lines of anxious customers who are willing to pay anything just to restore some of the comforts of home. In a capitalist society, the laws of supply and demand often govern the prices that merchants charge, and in times of widespread electricity outages, generators are in great demand. Currently, Florida’s price gouging regulations are as follows: Florida Statute 501.160 states - It is unlawful during a state of emergency to sell, lease, offer to sell, or offer for lease commodities, dwelling units, or self-storage facilities for an amount that grossly exceed the average price for the commodity the thirty days before the declaration of the state of emergency or the seller price for the commodity the thirty days before the declaration of the state of emergency unless the seller can show increases in its prices or market trends justifying the price. Examples of necessary commodities are food, ice, gas, oil and lumber. This is a civil crime enforced by the Attorney General, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and State Attorney.8 Some argue that this regulation is unreasonable, since it will interfere with supply (and market forces in general) and business owners’ freedom. Supporters of price gouging regulation argue that businesses have a responsibility not to take advantage of people in times of crisis. 8 (emphasis added) CASE 9: REDUX/PHEN-FEN Maria was a 45-year-old single mother who struggled with her weight all of her adult life. After her divorce, which she in part blamed on her weight, she decided that she needed to do something. She sought the advice of her doctor, who advised her that she might be a candidate for a gastric bypass surgery. This surgery is recommended only for individuals who are at least 100 pounds overweight, well into the morbidly obese range. Maria was five feet, eight inches tall and over 300 pounds. She found little success with prescribed diets or over-the-counter weight loss products and had difficulty with exercise, possibly due to her lung and heart development from being born premature. Maria decided that, given her compromised health due to her weight, she would opt for surgery. After her first gastric bypass surgery, internal hemorrhaging took place, and so she had a second surgery to correct the first, with a second attempt at the gastric bypass. The second surgery was also unsuccessful, so she then attempted a third gastric bypass surgery, but much to her and her doctor’s dismay, none of these surgical procedures produced the desired effect. She was one of the one in ten for whom gastric bypass surgery did not work. In the late 1990’s, her doctor contacted her with promising news. Two new weight loss medication regimens, Phen-fen and Redux, had entered the market that had helped many people lose their excess weight, and he wanted her to give it a try. Maria eagerly filled the prescription for Phen-fen, the stronger of the two medications. Phen-fen was actually a combination of two previously used drugs, Phentermine and Fenfluramine, but the combination of the two drugs had a particularly strong and effective result. Maria found this to be the case. For the first time in her life, she was nearing her goal weight. She was under 200 pounds, physically active, and happy with her appearance. After seeing a huge surge in the use of Phen-fen and Redux, research surfaced that the drugs might have negative effects on the hearts of those who took them. The drug makers, concerned for the health of their patients and the liability of distributing the drugs, removed them from the market. Shortly thereafter, Maria regained the weight she had lost. Specific problems related to these diet medications included a 23 fold increase in the incidence of hypertension, and heart valve damage, mainly leaks of the aortic valve in 28% of users and mitral valve leaks in 8% of users. However, morbid obesity also carries great health risks, and ultimately was named as a contributing factor in Maria’s death. CASE 10: LEGITIMATE SEX DIFFERENCES Women and men are different, and not only anatomically, according to various pieces of research. A September 2004 Department of Labor study broke down a typical day’s expenditure of time for both men and women; one journalist described the results in the headline, “Survey Confirms It: Women Outjuggle Men.”9 While the research was in essence neutral, it was reported as an indication of women’s superiority over men at handling many different tasks. In early 2005, Harvard President, Lawrence Summers, was sharply criticized for his theories about why women are underrepresented in tenured professorships at major universities.10 His explanations of this phenomena were in part sociological, i.e. they are simply remnants of the historical fact that women have not been involved in higher education and the workplace as long as men, but sometimes seemed to posit that men were simply better at these fields than women. Finally, some research may point out almost neutral differences, such as Diane Halpern’s of California State University at San Bernardino, finding that, “Women's skills all required "rapid access to and retrieval of information that is stored in memory" [web thinking]. Men's skills required the ability to "maintain and manipulate mental representations," [linear thought]."11 Understanding this difference might help a teacher to offer two different explanations of a single topic, thus giving each gender an explanation suited to his or her processing method. However, knowing this difference might also be divisive or hurt one gender when it comes to jobs that may depend on one skill over another. While those who read this research might attempt to suggest that one method of learning is better than another, they are simply different. Critics of gender difference research caution that focusing on the psychological, sociological or physiological differences of the sexes can help perpetuate stereotypes and limit the options that a female might consider possible for herself, regardless of her actual capabilities. Proponents of gender difference studies claim that this sort of research can help to prevent inequalities by, for instance, helping better balance standardized testing or recognizing the different strengths an underrepresented group might bring to the workplace. 9 A transcript of this speech can be viewed at: 11 For more information about Diane Halpern, visit: 10 CASE 11: 7 DIRTY WORDS In 1973, George Carlin recorded a skit titled “Seven Dirty Words,” in which he listed seven words that could not be said on the airwaves. A DJ on WBAI-FM in California decided to air this monologue, and his station subsequently was sued by a minister who heard the broadcast. The minister was particularly offended because he was driving with his young son, and thought that his child should be protected from hearing such language. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, and some clarifications were made to FCC regulations thereafter. It was found that a “safe harbor” with stricter content standards should be created between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and the justification is, at least in part, to protect children. Three different groups of content, “obscene, indecent, or profane,” were to be restricted during this time. The FCC allowed “community standards” to help determine which items fall into these categories. 12 Angela is a single mother who lives in a suburb of Atlanta with her 12-year-old son. She often works nights at the local hospital, and sometimes has trouble keeping tabs on her son’s television viewing habits while she is away. Sometimes she catches glimpses of shows her son watches, and was recently appalled at a recent episode of a program called “The O.C.” In this episode, teenagers enter a party where young women are taking clothing off, other youths are doing cocaine and marijuana, and the star of the show walks in, unabashed, and states, “Welcome to the dark side.” Another night she noticed a “Desperate Housewives” episode where a mother was abusing her childrens’ ADD medication. Even the animated “South Park,” showed eight-year-olds cussing and learning about all sorts of sexual matters from a character called Chef (though this is admittedly a cable program, and thus not as pervasively present). Angela feels as though these programs are in very poor taste, and they often are aired before the end of the “safe harbor.” She does not feel as though the TV ratings are a sufficient means of protecting her son from offensive or obscene content, and believes that broadcasters should respect the original idea that such programs should not be aired before 10 p.m. Her neighbor, Josh, a 24-year-old college student disagrees. He finds “South Park” to be great political and social satire, and appreciates “The O.C.” for its realistic portrayal of situations similar to those he has experienced. While talking with Angela, he suggests that, if she wishes to censor what her son watches, she might employ the V-Chip to protect her son or simply work on restricting his access to the television in general. Angela does not feel as though it should be her responsibility to protect her son from something that is so widely distributed as network television. 12 CASE 12: PARENTING PARENTS Mary grew up in a different type of home. Her parents had a happy marriage, and both held down well-paying jobs throughout her youth. Both parents suffered from alcoholism and smoked, but in most other ways, they were good parents. They always attended school functions and generally provided for a sound education, her good health, and her happiness. In high school, Mary dealt with some anxiety about her parents’ health by attending Al-Anon meetings to help her understand their addiction. She felt comfortable with her parents’ ability to continue functioning well despite their addiction, and was comforted by Al-Anon’s suggestions for dealing with their choices. After Mary left for college, however, she noticed changes in her parents. When she came home winter break from college, she noticed that her parents had new prescriptions for strong narcotic pain medication for “back pain,” which they had never suffered from before. They now used the medication as an additional intoxicant with their alcohol, and often in excess of the recommended dosage, clearly in violation of the warning labels. Mary felt as though her parents were abusing the drugs, and brought this up with them. They replied that there was nothing wrong with the medication, that it was legally prescribed, and that they had no intention of quitting use of the drug. Over time, she noticed that their prescriptions increased in quantity and potency, and she became increasingly concerned. During summer vacation, she noticed that they would take the medication first thing in the morning, and continue taking it all day long. One morning, her mother forgot to take the medication, and was sick by lunchtime. She felt certain that this was a side effect of strong addiction, and that something had to be done. She considered several options, such as contacting their doctor to discuss her parents’ use and possibly abuse of the drug; contacting the FDA about the doctor’s distribution of the pain medication, which Mary felt was in excess of a healthy dose; or possibly attempting to set up an intervention to help her parents. Mary was worried about how any of these options might affect her relationship with her parents, and weighed this with the other logistical concerns, such as whether her parents’ doctor would even discuss their health with her given current HIPAA privacy laws and doctor patient privilege. Mary was also concerned that, if her parents lost a legal source for the medication, given the addiction she suspected they suffered from, they might seek similar drugs on the street which would be more costly and much more dangerous.