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Presentation 5 – Ethical Conflict and Creative Middle Ways

November 15, 2011

On my sixth post I will be doing a reflection on “Ethical Conflict & Creative Middle Ways”. For our team presentation we had to show that there are ethical conflicts in the world of engineering. Engineers and people working on the problem have different ethical theories which leads to a compromise and a creative middle way. Our case study was a client would like to use corpses of children in the cars that are to be crashed. We had to do a presentation on the ethical conflict that would arise and a creative middle way. I will be doing the reflection under the four headings as done in previous posts.


When I heard what the case study was about I was horrified to think people actually thought of this. Using the corpses of dead children has never been done before and even though there were pros and cons associated with it I still went against it and it was the same for my teammates. I have never heard of testing been done on human corpses before. The only thing that came to mind, were grave robbers that sold dead bodies to medical schools for testing in the 18th century but that was illegal. Also I thought of animal testing because that was and still is a controversial subject. Many people are for it and just as many are against it and there has been no middle way developed. So this case study put me thinking about other ethical conflicts and how they can be resolved.


Ethical conflict is very relevant for today’s engineers. Engineers have to follow the code of  ethics so that means they have to do what’s best for the community. So engineers can’t develop something that will offend other races and religions. Everyday engineers have to take this into account. Even if the product fits the criteria some people still might be against it and that’s when more ethical conflict arises. However, engineers have to deal with this problem and that’s when they have to come up with a compromise that will both sides happy. This could probably be the most difficult part for the engineer because he has to change the product while it still has the same working function. But that is what being an engineer is about, coming up with a creative,working solution to a problem.


Given the case study of using corpses of children in cars that are to be crashed we had to analyse the problem and see why an ethical conflict would arise and how we would come up with a creative middle way. There was no right or wrong answer for the presentation. We just had to give our opinion on the matter and give reasons for our decisions and why our creative middle way would be effective.

The group decided to do the main part of the presentation on the pros and cons of using corpses and at the end a middle way to suit everyone.While doing research we learned that adults have donated there bodies to medical research in the past and that scientists have benefited greatly from the results. This was the only real positive thing we could find about using corpses. But this is a big positive as nothing can compare to show how damage is dealt to the human body not even the best crash test dummy. There were many “cons ” which in my opinion outweighed the “pro”. The use of dead children in testing goes against every religion and many people don’t like the idea of a child being used as a crash test dummy. The anatomy of a child is different to an adult, so much of the results would be pointless. This could lead to other types of testing on dead corpses. Even though crash test dummies aren’t as effective as cadavers they still retrieve life saving results.

It is pretty evident that we do without the use of corpses but we had to come up with a creative middle way. What we came up with was that we could use one corpse and the rest crash test dummies for each car crash test. This would only happen if everyone agreed to the use of corpses and if they didn’t they could choose not to take part in the test. Also the company would have to get consent for the use of a cadaver for testing. However, this middle way might still not agree with some people.


I learned many things while researching for this case study. When an ethical conflict arises everybody’s opinion counts, some might agree with utilitarianism while others agree with respect for persons, but whatever the case is a line has to be drawn and a compromise has to be made. This is the toughest part for the engineer and he has to make both sides happy. If the engineer puts in the research and analysis he can make a clearer decision. That’s what I learned most about this case study, that doing in depth  research will make for a better middle way that will make everyone happy.


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