Based on a paper by Wyatt Hogan, Ashley Faas, and Adam Gatz
Summary by Abigail Couch
Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 by Edward, Robert, and James Johnson. J&J is the largest manufacturer and distributor of health and pharmaceutical products and services. In 2010 the company had a total revenue of $61.8 billion. They are based in New Brunswick, N.J. but have over 250 private subsidiaries in Europe and employ more than 110,000 people worldwide. J&J has a very long history that includes a loyal customer base and honorable track record, at least until 2007 when an internal auditing group discovered discrepancies on the company's balance sheet that landed the company in court.
According to all of the following the ethical theories J&J did make some fitting choices in regards to their business and profits, but because they disregarded the health and welfare of the customers for their own benefit they did not act ethically according to the criteria.
The theory of individualism accepts the pursuit of profits and maximization of shareholder wealth, but it is also noted that the methods of pursuit must be within the constraints of the law. Not only was J&J interested in profit and maximum shareholder wealth, but the company was also concentrated on maximizing their market share in European markets. Decision makers within J&J's corporate management were aware of and approved of these actions and chose to do nothing about it because of the amount of revenue it generated. The profits received from their actions were earned in violation of the SEC Act of 1934. Because their actions were not within the constraints of the they were unethical.
Kantianism states that one must do what is right because it is the right thing to do, so basically just act ethically or morally. J&J did not have an ethical motivation for all parties involved. They had a selfish motivation to put more money in their pockets. The company exploited patients in Europe for profit because of the way they affected the rationale of the doctors through the use of their incentives. By affecting the doctors' rationality J&J violated the formula of humanity, further confirming that their actions were unethical.
The virtue theory is an ethical theory in which character traits and habits are key in developing into a person who will think and act ethically. These traits are defined as virtues and the opposites are known as vices. The four main virtues are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. The four main vices are rashness, deceit, self-indulgence, and unfairness. J&J management was courageous in the goals to obtain more profits, but was cowardice in the way they went about it. They did not practice justice or honesty since they broke the law and lied, and showed very little temperance through the money hungry choices they made. The doctors are just as guilty as J&J and in just about the same ways. Because of their actions and choices, according to the virtue theory the actions were unethical.
These facts and analyses are based on an original research paper by Wyatt Hogan, Ashley Faas, and Adam Gatz, "Johnson & Johnson: European Medical Kickbacks" (2011)
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