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Individual Case Study - Amanda Ripley: What is Life Worth?

Jessica Hummel

November 25th, 2016

BUSI - 1002 - Work Issues and Ethics

Sandra Wilson
Individual Case Study - Amanda Ripley: What is Life Worth?

How has this case impacted your views on business ethics?

The ethics of business is a very significant part of the successful managing of a

businesss moral behaviors through the use of appropriate, and proper decisions made relating

to the runnings of the corporation. From reading the case, not only does this relate to ethics

within everyday life, but also with business. The reason for this is because the lawyer, Kenneth

Feinberg, is the gentlemen the government entrusted with dispersing the money to those

affected by the attacks that occurred on September 11th. As we have learned, as a

businessman, the main goal should be to align ones decisions with corporate social

responsibility, as well as the decisions impact on society and those that were affected. A typical

perspective on ethics involves the equality of opportunity: The assumption that all individuals or

groups have an even chance at responding to some condition in society (Sexty, 2014). Within

this case, we can see some ethical implications that changed that view of equality of opportunity

for the reason that economic inequality has become a major factor. The families of the tragedy

were provided money, based on an equation, and numerous other factors; they felt as though

the lives of their loved ones were being given a price tag, rather than actually feeling

empathized by the government.

Feinberg presented more of a self-interest ethic, which involved himself, and the

government setting their own standards for judging the ethical implications of their actions

(Sexty, 2014). Not only did he not take into consideration the pain and suffering the victims

families were going through, but he also did not put any more effort, than what the government

had allowed him to, to earn more funds for those families. From the case, we can also see that

the funds given to the families, after all of the deductions have been taken to account, that the

amounts were not at, or close to zero. For situations like this, one would recognize the lack of

ethics, based on the fact that it was an issue controlled by the government, that affected many

members of their society. Feinbergs discretion of seeking the financial awards for the families
was lacking justification of moral reasoning. For example, before finding our exactly what they

will get, families will have to agree to never sue anyone for the attacks (Ripley, 2002). This

basically prohibited the families from actually even receiving any type of corrective justice as he

could not guarantee any type of major award. This has impacted my views on ethics because

one would think that the government, and a lawyer of such high involvement in society would

look for the best possible outcome for families that have endured such a loss, Corrective justice

would have been the typical route if the government were to actually follow the ethical

guidelines, which is when stakeholders are compensated appropriately for wrong that are

suffered (Sexty, 2014). In my opinion, that would have been the most ethical route, rather than

using some type of calculation to determine the compensation for the families, as it would have

led to a more equal award.

Finally, this case has impacted my views on ethics because the government is seen as a

figure of high authority and superiority. The government requirements ethic is the acceptance of

a code of laws as the governing rules of society that determines what is considered right or

appropriate behavior (Sexty, 2014). Although there may have been government legislation

regarding the awards given out to the families, the government should have taken into

consideration the extent of the tragedy, and changed the calculation. This ethic basically made

the questionable acts of the lawyer and the government seem as though it was indeed ethical

and justified.

How can we use a case like this to put our thoughts in perspective around both business

responsibilities and ethical consideration?

Based on this case, the business must take into consideration their own responsibilities

as well as the ethical consideration towards the families and the victims of the attack of

September 11th. We must acknowledge the fact that even though the lawyer was given the duty

of following the guidelines of the government to write the checks directly to the victims families,
the government still has a duty of corporate social responsibility. This is when a corporation

achieves a balance among its economic, social, and environmental responsibilities in its

operations so as to address shareholder and other stakeholder expectations (Sexty, 2014). The

society, one of the major stakeholders of the government, should be ethically considered in this

case. It is difficult to place a value on a loved ones life, and although the government felt as

though they were doing all they could for their families, they should have taken into

consideration that suffering the they were going through.

The government felt as though an economic award, would be suffice for a noneconomic

loss. This was a poor version of Stage 4, of the Conventional level of Kohlbergs Stages of

Moral Development. This stage is defined as law and order orientation where the laws are

viewed as promoting societal welfare and thus observed. What is right is determined by a sense

of duty to society (Sexty, 2014). The government should have taken a greater responsibility for

this tragedy, rather than limiting the societal welfare by putting a cap on the airlines liability.

They lacked a sense of complete duty to the society, and would have been better practiced if

they were too have taken into consideration the suffering of the families.

How is it right or not right to put a price on life?

I believe it is never right to put a price on life, in any circumstances.

What I believe to be unfair is the fact that the level of ethical assessment used was Level 3

where the decisions or actions based upon systematic analysis of outcomes, and benefits

versus harms to stakeholders (Sexty, 2014). Never should there be a time where there are

dedications, and other calculations brought into the determination of how much a family should

be given in the case of a death. A major part of this case that was so shocking was the fact that

the valuing of different lives, were different; all based on one equation. The process that

Feinberg took in the case did indeed calculate the loss by providing an economical award, but it

differed from other legal norms as it deducted the value of life insurance and pensions, and
allowed no flexibility in determine the noneconomic damages (Ripley, 2002). This was most

definitely unfair to those families as they felt as though the loved one that they lost were being

given a price tag.

A life of a person if difficult to put a price on, based on the fact that they have emotional

attachments to others around them which cannot be given a dollar value. Since it is difficult to

sue the government or the airlines, the families were left with no choice other than to follow the

guidelines of their lawyer and the government. With the case, the numbers for awards being

paid out to the families were extremely low. If ethics would have been a main priority in this

case, the value of those awards would have been much higher, and somewhat reasonable.

Ripley, A. (2002). What is Life Worth? New York: The New York Times Magazine.

Sexty, R. W. (2014). Canadian Business and Society: Ethics, Responsibilities and Sustainability

(3rd ed.). Whitby, Ontario: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.