2015 Slam Questions

1. In a meeting last month, my boss took credit for an idea of mine. This has happened to me once before—when a co-worker took credit for an idea that the company enacted. How should I handle the ethical issues posed by credit-stealing by a manager and a co-worker?

2. Every day for about a year now, I have been giving a homeless man a few dollars on my way to work. Does my own action create a moral duty for me to continue to give? That is, do the man’s expectations of me impose a duty? 

3. A terminally ill man wanted to see his brother who lived in another state. The doctor gave him IV therapy for two days until his brother arrived. The patient died a day later. Given the resources necessary to do this, did the physician do the right thing?

4. One of my colleagues left the company recently, not of his own accord. Soon after, another colleague was fired. Word went around that he (the second one) embezzled company funds. People started to talk about the first colleague, implying that he, too, was fired for embezzling. I am in a position to know why my colleague left. And it wasn’t embezzlement. My superior didn’t think he was productive enough. Should I say something publicly to defend my colleague? 

5. My coaches are always telling me to “go above and beyond”--which to me means doing an action that is extraordinary--like falling on a grenade to save others. My coaches get mad when they think I am not giving 110 percent. Do I really have an obligation to “go above and beyond” in a game every day?  Isn’t it good enough ethically to do my best in anything I do—whether in sport, school or work?   

6. Do we have a right to be “forgotten” by the Internet?  What is the ethical meaning of the right to be “forgotten?” 

7. A patient came into the ER. He was drunk. He would also not allow the doctor to touch him, because she looked “foreign,” and “would contaminate him.” What should a doctor do when a patient discriminates? What are a doctor’s responsibilities to the patient if the doctor is treated inhumanely and intolerantly?

8. This is an archaeology ethics question. Should battlefields be left alone as memorials? Or should they be developed for tourism, or even preserved for archaeologists in the future? 

9. Do human beings have a need for nature that implies an obligation to preserve it? Is there evidence for this? 

10. A few university endowment funds have divested from fossil fuel corporations. Even more have increasingly joined the socially responsible investment movement by prohibiting investment in companies that sell cigarettes, alcohol, guns and sugary soda. Should university endowments be used to advance worthy ethical causes?  

11. I followed the stories about the Facebook experiment where the news feeds of users were manipulated by the researchers and the network to learn how the changes affected their emotions. I thought the experiment was creepy, but I don’t understand why people thought it was so unethical. So, I want to know the issues. 

12. A few universities have courses in cyberoffense—where their students are taught how to hack into computer systems--similar I suppose to the DefCon Hacking Conference, where teams compete to break into computer systems. What are the ethics of this educational approach? 

13. Should a teacher have a general rule that he/she will devote more effort and time to develop a caring teacher-student relationship with students who fare worse socially or academically in their class and school? Is this ethical? 

14. Would it be morally acceptable to eat a cow that wants to be eaten—and can articulate this wish clearly—if we could make such an animal? 
(Note: this example comes from author Douglas Adam’s “Restaurant at the End of the Universe.”)

15. The new middle school librarian came on board at the beginning of the winter semester. A few days on the job, she received a box from a publisher of books and other media that her predecessor had ordered. The topics: angels, medical marijuana, waterboarding, Internet censorship, libertarianism, intelligent design, Mormonism, electoral college, and suicide.  Would it be ethical for her to send back to the publisher some of the titles, if her motivation is her dislike for the topics? Are there any ethical grounds for her to return any of the materials? 

16. Do you think it is ever morally acceptable to laugh when other people are in trouble and face setbacks? Especially when those people are bad themselves? 

17. You are a physician. Your friend is at home with her two week-old baby. You visit her. She is breastfeeding and thinks she has a yeast infection. She knows that you have phoned in prescriptions for family members and other friends every now and then. She asks you if you wouldn’t mind prescribing medication for her as well as her baby in this case? 

18. Are there ethical limits to parental/guardian rights to favor their children? How much privilege should parents/guardians be allowed to confer on their children? 

19. A consulting firm partner has a friend who is a partner in an accounting firm. Their children have gone to high school together and are now in college. Summer is approaching. The consulting firm partner asks whether the two could do an “internship swap,” where his daughter works for the accountant’s firm and her son works for his. Both firms have anti-nepotism policies. Is this ethical? 

20. A biotech company has a new genetic technology product that is highly coveted by a range of institutions—from medical centers to corporations. There is no regulation yet for this new product, which concerns the company’s owners, because there is a high potential for misuse. Does the company have a moral obligation to control which companies have access to their product? 

21. Do you think that crowdfunding IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) treatments is ethical? What are the ethical benefits and harms? 

22. A TV reporter is covering a mass shooting at an elementary school, which has left several children dead. The intense crush of journalists at the scene has created a kind of chaos, mixed with fear and panic. The reporter comes across a child and a woman holding her hand. They are visibly shaken. The reporter is surprised when the woman, the child’s mother, agrees to do an interview on camera. What principles should guide reporters in covering such tragedies? 

23. Should college athletics have an ethical mission?  And if so, does this mission fit into the mission of a university? 

24.You and your dog both have the same prescription medicine for heart conditions. Yours is covered by insurance. The same prescription for the dog is $90. This is a financial hardship for you. Should you refill your prescription to give to your dog? 


The last two questions are from our friends in Winnipeg—the group we are going to have a Slam off with in April. In addition to the questions they ask—similar to the ones above—they contribute to the question archive through popular culture tales. Last year, the theme was zombies. This year it is “Star Wars.” Below are 2 questions in this genre they shared with us. Perhaps, like last year, they are questions we might pose to our judges! PLEASE NOTE—these are not questions we will include in the Philosopher’s Hat. 

1. The Federation’s medical science is so advanced that it is possible to eliminate most disease and disability before a child is even born. In these cases, the fetus is scanned and if any genetic abnormality is detected, a simple injection of DNA-remodelling nanites will eliminate the problematic genes, allowing them to develop as if they had “normal” genes. Although this kind of therapy could also be used to enhance DNA to make people stronger, faster, smarter, as well as customize various other features, the Federation has decided to prohibit any DNA therapy which is not strictly “curative” in nature. Some people object to even this “curative” DNA treatment, arguing that “fixing” fetuses so that they won’t be disabled or disordered sends a message that such people are not socially desirable. They also mention the unique cultures which have emerged from the presence of disability, such as “deaf culture” or the organizations and relations between people who live with Down’s Syndrome. The activists say that by “curing” people before they are born, we are eliminating a unique segment of diversity from our society, and that this is “no more acceptable than changing all the short people or all the gay people before they are born.” Given these concerns, what should our policy be towards the use of curative DNA therapy?

2. A solar flare will soon erupt and obliterate Earth. A new planet has been discovered which humans could live on, and a single large evacuation ship has been constructed. There is only room on the ship for a total of about 100,000 people. The ship will be a "generational ship", since it will take about 80 years of travel in order to reach the new planet and our cryogenic technology has not advanced enough for us to be able to freeze people for the journey. Therefore people will be living out their lives on the ships and it is their children and grandchildren who will settle the new world. How should we decide who gets to go on the ship?