Fall 2019: Ethical Decision Making Blog Post

While trying to develop a low-cost syringe for the developing world context, you (the designer) hit a cross-roads. Constructing the syringe to auto-disable after a single use, an important safety feature, significantly adds to the cost of the design -making it potentially unaffordable for some hospitals and clinics. However, if you don’t add the safety feature, you are enabling the potential for the spread of disease. How do you as a designer proceed?

When formulating a decision for this ethical dilemma, first the facts need to be determined. The facts of this issue include that if the safety feature is added, the syringe will become more inaccessible and if the safety feature is removed, there will be unsafe outcomes like possibly the spread of diseases. Therefore, the ethical issue lies in whether restricting people to use the product or increasing the risk associated with the product is worse for people.

The designer of course has a right to make this decision, but I feel that if they were to not include the safety feature it must be clearly and openly stated what the product lacks and what risks that this may bring. The people purchasing the items may not be aware of the potential for the spread of disease and therefore something really bad could result. I believe that there is a duty for the designer, who is well informed of all the health risks of not having an auto-disable, to include the auto-disable in the product so that the product itself has the potential to help people, even if not everyone can purchase it. I also strongly believe that if the product does lack the safety feature, the customer and the designer will lose their positive relationship and more importantly there will be a loss of trust. Once this loss of trust in the product is established, word would spread and the product itself will become undesirable to the larger population.

From a financial perspective, the creator of the product would suffer from including the auto-disable because less people would buy it and he would make more money, but from the ethical standpoint, the people and customers would suffer more if the auto-disable was not included. Following the shorthand principle, I could not justify the exclusion of this safety feature because I know that it could bring real harm to people. If it did cause harm and spread disease that would be something that I could not live with. Therefore, if I was the designer, I would proceed with including the auto disable in the product although it may limit the amount of people that can buy it. This would bring the most overall good to the most people. I would follow virtue based thinking and duty based thinking to conclude to add the safety feature.

In addition, there are definitely other routes of getting this product to people that would eliminate the need to worry about cost. These include things like getting the products funded by the government and purchased by clinics, health centers, large corporations, etc. which would administer these syringes for free to the people who need them.

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