A Whistle-blower’s Quandary Case Study Analysis
Sunday Review conducted a series studies to investigate how potential whistle-blowers decide whether or not to report unethical behavior. The study asked a group consisting of 74 participants to write a short paragraph about a time when they saw unethical conduct and they reported it. Another group, comprising 61 participants, was asked to describe a situation where they observed unethical conduct and they kept quiet. In the study, whistle-blowers were found to use 10 times more terms related justice and fairness than non-whistleblowers.
The study revealed that two moral principles, loyalty and fairness, are in conflict when whistle-blowing. It is often difficult to be loyal when you are doing the right thing or what’s just. Even though loyalty is a basic moral value, people often prioritize fairness. It’s because we all do things differently that society finds it so hard to decide on right and wrong. We all have different resources to draw on when making decisions. One thing is for sure: ethics is more than what we like or dislike. It is more than an opinion. Ethics demands that we make decisions that are based on evidence, not just opinion. Remember that the way we make decisions is as important as the decision itself. Ethics is a set of standards that guide human behavior in a variety of situations. For example, it can be applied to friends, parents, kids, citizens, businesspeople and teachers. Pharmacia’s case illustrates the importance of ethical whistle blowing.
This case involves whistleblowers who have the right to compensation for reporting a Federal False Claims Act against Pharmacia, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures Genotropia. Dr. Peter Rost (Vice President of Marketing, Pharmacia) is well aware that Pharmacia is encouraging doctors not to use the drug in approved ways. Genotropia, a synthetic human hormone, is used for treating a few hormonal deficiencies among children and elderly people. The drug firm used kickbacks like all-expense-paid business sponsored conference, paid participation to drug studies, or lucrative consulting positions in order to promote unapproved usage. Between 1997 and 2003, physicians were encouraged to prescribe Genotropia to elderly patients with no hormonal deficiency or short children. Genotropia was not FDA-approved for these uses. Dr. Rost, who is the director of marketing at Genotropia, was made aware of this misuse and complained to his superiors. The company was able to curtail incidents, but not eliminate them. Pfizer, which acquired Pharmacia on May 3, 2003, disclosed in full the illegal activities of off-label marketing and prohibited them within days. Pfizer provided the FDA with detailed documentation on the kickbacks and the corrective action taken. Pfizer paid $35 million to settle allegations of bribery in Genotropia and improper marketing.
Dr. Rost files an FCA complaint without knowing it in June of 2003. Pfizer informed the agency. In exchange for filing, the FDA rewards individuals with a percentage (10-30%) of the amount recovered. Federal government mandates that all information provided must be based on personal experience, and never before made public. FDA review of documents revealed some questionable conclusions. He failed to provide any solid evidence for his claim that Pharmacia encouraged doctors not to do two tests in order diagnose growth hormone deficiency, when only one was needed. He failed to prove that doctors were being targeted for promotional activities. He was fired as a result. As Dr. Rost found out, being a whistleblower has its disadvantages. Ethics decisions can be emotionally and personally charged, and can cause conflict between people with different perspectives. Understanding the terms used in ethics and the theories that underpin them can help to resolve this conflict. There are many ethical theories that can be used to clarify the source of this conflict.
It is easier to solve ethical issues if you follow a step by step approach. After all, the whistleblower should blow the horn for the correct moral reasons. Some people believed that whistle-blowing “violates the duty of loyalty one owes to their employer.” Some believe that whistle blowing is a betrayal by an employee of his employer’s interest in the name of public good. When it is about ethical behavior, a whistleblower faces a moral dilemma: whether to betray his employer or the public good.