According to the Texas armouring corporation website, 80-90% of terrorism takes place when the victim is traveling by vehicle. There are about 60 thousand kidnapping cases which are reported per year with about 70% of them being solved by the victim paying the kidnapper the demanded price with no assurance to remain alive. The question is, how far should a company go to show safety when using such armoured vehicles? Texas company decided to use their own CEO behind the wheel to test its bulletproof windscreen, other companies use CEO to test bulletproof vests.
Should companies use employees as safety test subjects?
There are some circumstances where using human testing is acceptable. After watching the controversial video of the Texas CEO behind the wheel, demonstrating how safe their windscreen is to withstand bullet, some people were impressed especially given the fact that this company provides defense products to high profile clients like the president of the United States and the pope. Demonstrations can be a remarkable way to advertise the company’s product, as well as build people’s confidence in the product rather than only using expensive and rigorous analytical testing and safety ratings, which most people do not even understand. The customers feel safer, resulting in potentially higher sales, which would please the CEO, his employees and the investors. This is in accordance with utilitarian theory where one should always act to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
Using human subjects on products linked to human safety is justified since the consequence of this action targets human safety and welfare. At the end of it, this can be beneficial to a lot of people who watch the demonstration.
When it comes to human testing the volunteers are always protected by the law and by contractual agreement, this contains the consequences and benefits including the right to end participation to the test at any time. The volunteer has access to research information and is protected from physical, mental and emotional harm by risk assessment, emergency staff are also available on site in case the test fails.
Humans by nature are subjected to risk all the time even in their homes, by applying the practical test for products related to their safety the aim is to prove the results practically and gain the customers’ confidence about product reliability as mentioned earlier. In addition, since alternative methods of testing products, such as use of dummies or robots are very common, the use of humans to test product effectiveness and reliability proves the high degree of safety of the product to be used in human test. Currently with sophisticated technology and simulation advancement, the failure percentage during the product safety test could be negligible. By the time a decision is made to do a human test, the product has been verified through the alternative methods of testing that it is safe to go ahead with demonstration. This decision is made to satisfy the majority, the public. From the utilitarian perspective, the public has unconditionally accepted that the product is indeed able to protect human life in real life scenario.
Humans should not be used to test safety equipment.
At first glance, everything looks great with this demonstration of the CEO and his product. If we explore it through Kant’s egalitarian values though, this decision cannot be justified at all. Kant theory unlike Utilitarian, focuses on the actions rather than the consequences of the action. Can the action be morally and universally justified? If not, even when the intentions behind it are good, we should not act on it.
Human life cannot be used as means to achieve certain objectives, here the CEO uses his own life to generate public confidence in his product. Unlike human testing in areas such as medicine, this test does not influence whether the product should be sold or if it can have any negative side effects. These products were designed to stop bullets, showing that with human subjects is more of a stunt than a valid advertisement for a product.
Utilitarians may argue that this brings greater good to the society by preventing loss of human lives. However, the argument lacks merit since the main reason for the demonstration is publicity, it may even have some negative impacts. Customers can feel over confident and try to imitate the CEO’s actions, there are some cases of this happening as teenagers died carrying out similar tests. Furthermore, the International Community on Harmonisation states that in the case of human testing you must weigh the risk of the trail with the anticipated benefit to the individual as well as society. In this case the benefit for the CEO would be the trust consumers will have in that product, for society it will help them make decisions when buying the product. The risk for the CEO can be death, for society the main risk as mentioned before is the extra confidence in the product. For both these cases the benefit gained does not outweigh the risk, since the tests will have the same impacts if dummies were used rather than human subjects. Therefore, the greater good argument is not ethically acceptable. Considering this kind of testing is acceptable and that any viewers will not be negatively influenced by it, there are still some other issues that come with it. As good as the product may be, some people will buy this product under the influence of this advert. If the customer is then in a similar situation and the product fails to deliver, the CEO can be held morally responsible for any such tragedy. Therefore, even though utilitarian arguments try to justify the decision by justifying the results achieved by the decision. They are vague and we should focus on the decision and whether it is morally justified rather than take into account the consequences.
Human test subjects should not be used.
- Van de Poel, Ibo, and Lambèr Royakkers. Ethics, Technology, and Engineering : An Introduction, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2011.