# Heinz

1. Mar 26, 2005

In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. the drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $400 for the radium and charged$4,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money and tried every legal means, but he could only get together about $2,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying, and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from if." So, having tried every legal means, Heinz gets desperate and considers breaking into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife. Should Heinz steal the drug? 2. Mar 26, 2005 ### Evo ### Staff: Mentor No, it's not right for Hienz to steal. The inventor of the drug has every right to profit from his work. If drug companies were to give away the drugs they develop just because someone needed it, they wouldn't make any money, therefore there would be no companies developing new drugs and there would be no new medicines. That's reality. 3. Mar 26, 2005 ### no name does that means that he lets his wife die .... coz he tried all the legal ways ... but all was clozed ...and this is the only way to save his wife life ???? 4. Mar 26, 2005 ### Evo ### Staff: Mentor Unfortunately, yes. People die every day because they don't have access to the medical treatments they need. Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone could get everything they needed from a medical perspective for free and just when they needed it? Of course, but the world doesn't work that way. 5. Mar 26, 2005 ### franznietzsche Yup. Welcome to the way reality works. 6. Mar 26, 2005 ### brewnog Indeed. On a larger scale, there are plenty of drugs which you can buy for pence (cents...) in your pharmacy which could save millions of lives in areas of Africa. The fact is, they can't afford them. 7. Mar 26, 2005 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor This is a variation on a classic ethics case study. The issue boils down to: what is a fair profit and what is exploitation? Regardless of the answer though, stealing is still wrong and one wrong can't be justified based on another. Also, Evo alluded to it, but its not a simple as buying the radium for$400 and selling it for $4,000 - development costs are the real biggie in pharmaceuticals. 8. Mar 26, 2005 ### juvenal I don't think there's an easy answer nor do I know how I would act in that particular situation, but Heinz should be prepared to face the risks of getting caught and going to jail. But I wouldn't be surprised if a judge/jury ruled in his favor, or at least gave him a great deal of leniency. The legal system is not as black and white as you might think, nor should it be. 9. Mar 26, 2005 ### brewnog Sod it, if my wife was going to die then I'd steal a lifeboat! It doesn't make it right though. 10. Mar 26, 2005 ### hypnagogue Staff Emeritus Agreed. From the point of view of the druggist, Heinz would be wronging him to steal the drug. Still, from Heinz's point of view, I imagine the moral imperative to respect the druggist's exorbitant charges pales in comparison to the moral imperative to save his wife's life. I guess it comes down to an issue of utilitarianism vs. deontology. Perhaps an interesting spin: suppose Heinz steals the drug, but leaves behind the$2000 he's collected for the druggist. Is this course of action any more justified / less objectionable than stealing the drug outright?

11. Mar 26, 2005

### BobG

There's two levels to this - moral and social.

From a moral perspective, is it right to steal the life of a poor cow or the life of a poor rabbit in order to feed yourself? Of course it is! It's only natural to do the things required to survive.

From a social perspective, can a society allow you to get away with stealing the drug? Of course not! The overall benefit, the survival rate of the general populace, outweighs the survival of one member.

Heinz may be morally justified in stealing the drug, but that shouldn't matter to the jury that tries him. He'll still be guilty of roberry. In practice, the reason for committing the crime may get him a lighter sentence, but it won't get him an innocent verdict.

12. Mar 26, 2005

### Staff: Mentor

Even having a good motive to commit a crime doesn't make it less of a crime.

If I steal a car to drive someone to the hospital to save their life, am I not guilty of theft? What if I leave a couple of thousand dollars in the place of the car? It may cover the actual value of the car, but if the owner is not in agreement, it's still theft.

Of course as has been mentioned, it might result in more leniency in the conviction, but it doesn't make it not a crime.

Last edited: Mar 26, 2005
13. Mar 26, 2005

### juvenal

What does it mean to "get away"? What if Heinz is found guilty but given a slap on the wrist? Some community service or probation?

Also - the fact that we have social safety nets and welfare and things like that means that we're not a totally utilitarian-based society. We are willing as a society to pay for the costs of mercy.

Last edited: Mar 26, 2005
14. Mar 26, 2005

### BobG

Well, in this particular case, it would depend on why the drug was so expensive.

Just prior to a hurricane, jacking up the prices on batteries, bottled water, and other emergency supplies is as illegal as stealing. This, in spite of the fact that natural supply and demand would seem to imply that the price of emergency supplies should skyrocket immediately before a disaster. The idea of pure capitalism has its limits, even in a capitalist society.

If the drug is selling at a 'fair' price, a person might still get off with a slap on the wrist. Unfortunately for Heinz, if he can't afford the drug, he probably can't afford the lawyer good enough to get him off with something as light as community service or probation.

If a person swerved off the road in their SUV to avoid a head-on collision with a drunk driver and ran over a couple of kids walking down the sidewalk, I would put the chances of the SUV driver being held responsible for the kids' deaths barely above zero. The survival instinct and the lack of time to think things through absolves him completely. Equally important, you don't face the threat of a rash of SUV drivers running over kids on the sidewalk under the excuse of avoiding drunk drivers (and, even if you did, the solution would be to reduce the number of drunk drivers, not punish the folks trying to avoid them).

The difference with Heinz is that he has time to weigh the consequences of his actions. While I'm not sure what reasonable alternative he might come up with, the effect of letting Heinz off too lightly is to encourage others in the same situation to do the same thing. The result could be to deny the drug to everyone, since the drug maker can't very well stay in business without making a profit.

In fact, Heinz's plight shows why some socialism is important even in capitalist societies. While all of the best medical care may not be available to all lower income people, there has to be at least enough of a chance of getting necessary medical care that the overwhelming majority keep their faith in the system. I think we had a thread many months ago that alluded to that - the fairness of the taxation system didn't matter; only that those paying higher tax rates had much more to gain from a stable society than the lower income folks paying less than their fair share in maintaining the structures of society. You don't want a survival of the most violently fittest.

15. Mar 26, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Is it right? No. Would I do it if a loved one's life depended on it? Yes.

In other words, while I would be sympathetic to Heinz's motive, it would not make it right for him to steal. He would still have to pay the penalty for his crime, though I would suspect serving his time would be easier done knowing his wife would live because of his actions.

16. Mar 27, 2005

### gerben

No, Heinz should not, but I would...

I think such medical cases should not be left to the "market". People should be helped to medicine in such cases, even if it takes some of the taxpayers' money. Materialism is going too far nowadays.