"The greatness and the genuine trait of your thought and writings lie on the fact that you positively and interestingly make use of philosophical thoughts and thoughtfulness in order to deeply and concretely cogitate about America's social issues. . . . This does not mean that your thought is reducible to your era: your thought, being inspired by issues characterizing your era . . . , overcomes your era and will still likely be up to date even after your era, for future generations." Bruno Valentin

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Novartis Invested for Bribery in the E.U.: On the Ethics of Suffering

Two former prime ministers, the central bank governor, and the federal commissioner for migration stood accused by prosecutors in the E.U. state of Greece of receiving bribes from Novatis “in exchange for fixing the price of its medicines at artificially high levels and increasing” the company’s access in the state.[1] The state legislature voted in February, 2018 to investigate the accusations and to vote by secret ballot at the conclusion of the investigation on whether to revoke immunity, which would be necessary for any of the accused to be indicted. The prime minister at the time, Alexis Tsipras, said, “Those who enriched themselves from human pain must suffer the consequences.”[2] This statement reveals an ethical truism of sorts—namely, that people who knowingly cause others pain should suffer.  It is right, in other words, that they suffer.
A gay man, for instance, who knowingly risks infecting sex partners with HIV by lying to them may receive less sympathy if he becomes ill. Mortgage producers who knowingly subject borrowers the likely risk of losing their respective homes deserve to suffer punishment. Suffering should be in balance. Yet the infliction of retributive suffering does not undo the original suffering. Whether or not the 10 politicians would suffer by being imprisoned would not bring back any patients who died because medications were too expensive. A corresponding suffering does not make the world fair; it merely makes the victims or their allies feel better by relieving their anger. But does this render the corresponding suffering ethical?
It is better, ethically speaking, to prevent the original suffering, for even adding a corresponding suffering does not undo the original for the victims. Novartis had been investigated for bribery in China, South Korea, Turkey, and the U.S. Why had the European Commission not held the company to close scrutiny? To look the other way concerning such a company is itself unethical because the original suffering could have been prevented.

For more on unethical business, see Cases of Unethical Business

[1] Nici Kitsantonis, “Did Novartis Bribe 10 Politicians? Greece Approves an Investigation,” The New York Times, February 23, 2018.
[2] Ibid.