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Union Carbide - Ethical Dilemma

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Bhopal Ð'- Union Carbide

Ethical Dilemma

Many ethical issues are raised by the situation that occurred in 1984 at the Union Carbide Corporation plant in Bhopal, India. The most important is the moral and ethical duty to preserve and protect human life. Union Carbide's management, both in the United States and India failed to sufficiently protect its employees, the surrounding communities and environment from harm while operating its plant. It appears that the safety procedures at the plant were not a high priority for either Union Carbide officials or the Indian government. In respects to the Government of India, they would have had to weigh the issue of allowing Union Carbide to build the plant thereby increasing production of pesticides and grain output which in turn directly affected the lives of some seventy million people against the concession that they would enforce few laws requiring expensive environmental equipment and workplace protection. Was it a fair trade-off? Union Carbide created thousands of jobs and indirectly fed millions of people over the years. Is the adage "sacrifice the few to save the many" an ethical viewpoint? India thought so.

Union Carbide's decision-makers valued profits over human life. They were fully aware that India was not enforcing basic safety standards. Union Carbide did not take it upon themselves to set up procedures that may very well have reduced the catastrophic results of the methyl isocyanate gas leak. They are an American corporation and therefore should abide by American standards, no matter where they are located. The issue of safety did not rank high in India, whereas it would have been a primary issue in the United States. Perhaps no dollar value can be ascribed to American life but Indian life has a price-cap. Union Carbide also failed to enforce what few safety regulations they did have in place. Instead of following up on their request, they assumed that it had been done based on a report from the Indian managers. Other issues involve evaluating the benefits of cost cutting against the burden of employing personnel who did not have the minimum education required. These employees could detrimentally effect the operations of the company.

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