Ethics Slam             Ethics Bowl             Case Writing Competition        

2016 Slam Questions

1. Our neighborhood has recently been hit by a tornado. Our neighbors have generators--except for one family. Should we offer to share electricity with this neighbor? What general obligations do residents using generators have toward their neighbors with or without them?
 
2. I had planned a vacation after installing equipment at a company we have done business with for years. I know the engineer at the company who uses the equipment pretty well. The parts did not come in on time, eating into my vacation. The company engineer told me that he could supervise the installation and that I should go on vacation. I did and had a great time. I am having second thoughts.   

3. Geoengineering, the intentional and massive-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract the harms of global climate change, is now being taken seriously in scientific and policy discussions. But given the definition of geoengineering, is it so potentially harmful that we should restrict or even prohibit research on it? 

4. Should we judge a person by the friends she/he has or the people he/she hangs around with? In particular, should we judge a politician by his/her friends? 

5. Is it morally acceptable for an autonomous vehicle (driverless car) to avoid a motorcycle by swerving into a wall, considering that the probability of survival is greater for the adult passenger of the car, than for the young rider of the motorcycle? Should a different decision be made for the vehicle algorithm if we know that the young motorcycle rider has more years of life ahead than the adult car driver?

6. A friend invited me to a Super Bowl party on February 7th. I am a neurologist. Should my friend understand why I cannot attend? Should I urge other friends to stop watching the Super Bowl? 

7. Does belief in free will make us more ethical people?

8. Is cognitive enhancement, that is “smart pills” used by students to think more carefully and clearly for a test or presentation--morally better or worse--than motivation enhancement pills, that is “motivation pills” designed to get students to stop procrastinating and begin studying for the test or presentation? 

9. A technology billionaire’s children were angry when he left his entire fortune to the robots who cared for him in his final days. Should it be morally permissible to do this? 

10. My wife is a 3rd grade teacher. She has a child in her class on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His parents recently had a very acrimonious divorce. He lives with his mother during the week and goes to his father’s on the weekend. One parent gives him the drug, but the other refuses to--and they don’t agree. According to my wife, her student is having several new problems in class, which she thinks are related to the inconsistency of receiving his medication. What should she do?

11. “Hello Barbie” is an “Artificial Intelligence” doll for children, created by Mattel corporation. As I understand it, Barbie responds to a child’s questions; and their “conversation” can be uploaded to the Cloud. This means not only that family members, but manufacturers, have access to what the child says to Barbie. Suppose the child tells Barbie that she is being abused. What are the rights and obligations of manufacturers in cases like this? 

12. The parents of an 8 year old with cellulitis enroll him in a research study of antibiotics to determine steady-state levels in children. The study has no clear therapeutic benefit for patients, and presents only minimal risk. When the doctor goes to put in the required IV, the child objects to the needle and then asks, "Do I really need this to make me better?" What should happen next?

13. My dad and I like to fish. We are very familiar with “catch and release” practices, and are in favor of them. Except that we like to eat what we catch. We are tired of people smugly proclaiming that they only “catch and release,” in an effort to shame us. Do you think shaming is an ethical way to deal with this issue?  

14.  What are the ethical responsibilities of a journalist who is reporting an anniversary or remembrance story, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or September 11th? 

15. British philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch wrote in one of her letters, “Is one morally responsible for what one does in other people’s dreams?” Are we? 

16. A 9 year old girl calls 911. Her mother has passed out and is not breathing after an overdose of a prescription painkiller. You are a member of the ambulance crew transporting the mother to the hospital. The girl tells you that she does not want her mother to know that she is the one who called. 

17. Must we always forgive someone for an action when he feels remorse and apologizes for it?  

18. In my nursing work, a patient sometimes asks me about religious beliefs and whether I think “there is a heaven.” I regard myself as a “religious nurse.” But I am also a professional. What and where is the ethical boundary between proselytizing and merely stating one’s beliefs that are one’s own?   

19. A married couple wishes to have a child. The 32 year old mother knows she is a carrier for Huntington's disease (HD), a genetic disorder that begins showing signs at anywhere from 35-45 years of age. Its symptoms begin with slow loss of muscle control and end in loss of speech, large muscle spasms, disorientation and emotional outbursts. After 15-20 years of symptoms HD ends in death. HD is a dominant disorder which means that her child will have a 50% chance of contracting the disorder. Feeling that risking their baby's health would be irresponsible, the couple decides to use in vitro fertilization to fertilize several of the wife's eggs, harvesting/keeping those that do not have the defective gene. The couple gives birth to a boy who does not carry the gene for the disorder. Do you think the couple acted ethically?

20. Employers are experimenting with devices that track (volunteer) employees' movements, tone of voice, and even posture. For now, only the aggregate data is being collected and analyzed to help employers understand the average workday and how employees relate to each other. What are the main ethical issues of such wearable technologies used in the workplace?