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What They Don't Know Won't Hurt Them

What They Don't Know Won't Hurt Them

During my last two years in college, I worked for animal hospital in my hometown. In my time there, many animals passed away in their sleep or four unknown reasons. It was not uncommon. In the situation, our facility would offer the owners the service of an autopsy. An autopsy is a procedure in which the doctor would surgically open up the animal to check for any signs of what might have caused the animal's death.

Mrs. Johnson, a client of ours, brought in her dog that had unfortunately passed away while she was at work. Her dog was only five years old, and the owners were not aware of any health problems. No one, including the doctor, could figure out what had caused the death of Mrs. Johnson's dog. Mrs Johnson was asked if she would give her consent for the doctor to perform an autopsy on her dog, so maybe they would be able to answer the many questions surrounding his death.

Mrs. Johnson did not want this procedure to be done; she just wanted our facility to take care of her dog's remains. The office manager at the animal hospital told the doctor she should let the vet students, who were doing their rotations at our hospital, go ahead and perform an autopsy as a learning experiment. The office manager mentioned that the owner would never know because we were in charge of the disposal, so it wouldn't be a problem.

Questions

1. Is it ethical for the doctor to allow the vet students to perform the autopsy?

2. Should the fact that the owner would never know if the autopsy was performed affect the doctor's decision?

3. What would you do in this situation? Why?

Solution Preview

1. No, it would not be ethical for the doctor to allow this. Let's consider this situation further. Just because the actual owner doesn't know, doesn't make the act ethical. If I worked for a company where they kept a considerable amount of petty cash and I needed $50 until payday, and if I "borrowed" a $50 bill for a day or two until payday and then put it back without anyone ever noticing, it doesn't make it ethical just because no one knew. The bottom line is that I was still stealing the money even if my intention was to put it ...

Solution Summary

This solution addresses each of the following questions based on the case, What They Don't Know Won't Hurt Them, which is a business ethics scenario that takes place at an animal hospital.

1. Is it ethical for the doctor to allow the vet students to perform the autopsy?

2. Should the fact that the owner would never know if the autopsy was performed affect the doctor's decision?

3. What would you do in this situation? Why?

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