2023 Michigan Ethics Bowl Case Studies

2023 Michigan High School Ethics Bowl Case Studies

Case 1: Reluctant Hero

On September 22, 1975 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, a good Samaritan foiled the attempted assassination of Gerald Ford. Just as Sara Jane Moore attempted to shoot the president, Oliver Sipple, a Vietnam veteran who just happened to be in the crowd that day, pushed her down. Though he was hesitant to accept the label, Sipple was lauded as a national hero. There was just one problem: he was gay.

Sipple was out to his friends in San Francisco, but was still closeted from his family in Detroit. He had asked reporters to not comment on his sexuality for fear of estrangement. However, Harvey Milk, a prominent gay activist, San Francisco politician, and Sipple’s friend, intentionally outed Sipple to journalist Herb Caen at the San Francisco Chronicle. Caen published the story, it was picked up across the nation, and Sipple’s family in Detroit was hounded by reporters and harassed by their neighbors due to their son’s sexual orientation. Though some in his family came to accept Sipple, most continued to be uneasy with his sexuality up until his death in 1989.

Sipple had worked on Milk’s campaign for mayor, and Sipple was active in the gay community. Milk had even loaned Sipple money when he was between jobs. Still, Sipple knew his family wouldn’t be able to accept his life and didn’t want to be outed to them. At a time when gay men were seen as perverts by society, Milk justified outing Sipple because he thought it was important to promote gay people in the media. He said, “It's too good an opportunity. For once we can show that gays do heroic things."1 For Milk, Sipple's hesitance to share his sexuality was doing a disservice to his identity. To him, pushing aside your sexuality means abandoning a core aspect of yourself — something that is completely unacceptable. He said in a 1978 speech, “Every gay person must come out … As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends … once you do, you will feel so much better.”2

Sipple didn’t see it this way. He said in a statement to reporters, “My sexual orientation has nothing at all to do with saving the president's life, just as the color of my eyes or my race has nothing to do with what happened in front of the St. Francis Hotel on Tuesday. My sexuality is a part of my private life, and has no bearing on my response to the act of a person seeking to take the life of another. I am first and foremost a human being who enjoys and respects life. I feel that a person’s worth is determined by how he or she responds to the world in which they live, not on how or what—or with whom a private life is shared.”3

Study Questions:
1. Did Caen have an obligation not to run the story? In what circumstances is it morally acceptable to divulge information about someone against their will?
2. To what extent did Sipple have an obligation to support the gay community, especially given his heightened platform? More generally, what obligation do people with larger audiences have to support social causes?
3. What inherent moral value is there to publicly expressing your true sexuality, if any? How does this factor into Milk's decision to out Sipple?


1 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/30/AR2006123000160.html
2 https://www.onearchives.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/1978_harvey_milk_gay_freedom_day_speech.pdf
3 https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/oliver-sipple

Note: the third reference expertly goes over this entire series of events in far more detail, including more about Sipple's life, relationships, and death.

 Author Bio: 

Leo Kupperman is a first-year student at the University of Chicago interested in Applied Math and Philosophy. He is also a former member of the Huron Ethics Bowl Team. (Go Rats!) A jazz trumpet player, Leo believes that music, math, and metaphysics are fundamentally related, and that the ethics bowl is instrumental in bringing that understanding to others.

Case 2: Not In My Backyard!

In July of 2021, the California-based company Arevia Power announced that they were scrapping plans for a large solar farm in Southern Nevada. The initiative, known as the Battle Born Solar Project, would have created the largest solar farm in the United States and provided daytime power to around 500,000 homes.1 Despite assurances from Arevia Power that the project would be set far enough back on the nearby mesa so as not to be visible from the closest town, local residents fought against the construction of the solar farm. They argued that the solar farm would discourage popular recreational activities such as biking, driving ATVs, horseback riding, and visiting the famous environmental art sculpture Double Negative.2

Proponents of the project argued that it would have created 2,600 jobs and helped Nevada towards its goal of producing 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. A ballot question in 2020 found that a majority of Nevada voters supported a transition towards renewable energy. One of the residents even said, “I’m not against renewable energy, I’m just against losing this beauty.”

People who oppose such projects are said to have an attitude of “Not in my backyard!”—often shortened to “NIMBY.” When residents of towns and neighborhoods disagree with a project being built near them, they will often band together to oppose it. The protested projects vary wildly in their impact to the community—everything from zoning changes and energy projects to affordable housing developments and landfills. While some argue that NIMBYism has contributed to rising housing costs and blocked many beneficial projects, others argue that communities have a right to oppose projects that will affect their neighborhood’s character.

Study Questions:
1. Under what circumstances is a “NIMBY” attitude towards development morally permissible?
2. How should we evaluate the tradeoffs between the good of a larger entity (a state, a country, or the world) and the good of a local community?
3. When making a decision, how should we weigh the negative impacts on those directly affected against positive impacts on those who are indirectly affected?


1 https://apnews.com/article/technology-government-and-politics-environment-and-nature-las-vegas-nevada-9bf3640dfefbc6f7f45a97c6810f5ff7
2 https://electrek.co/2021/07/26/us-largest-solar-farm-is-scrapped-because-nevada-locals-dont-want-to-look-at-it/

Author Bio: 

This case is from the 2022-2023 National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Case Set. It was edited for content, clarity, and pedagogical focus by NHSEB’s Executive Committee, in editorial collaboration with NHSEB’s Case Advisory Committee and Case Contributors. 


Case 3: A Day In The Park

Helena lives in Warsaw, Poland, and her home is within walking distance of Muranow Park where the Warsaw Ghetto Monument stands on its perimeter. The memorial commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 and serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during WWII. Tourists are a frequent sight around the area because they come to pay respect to victims and wish to learn more about the Holocaust. The residents of the area do not pay particular attention to the visitors, and proceed to continue with their daily routines, frequently walking their dogs in the park or strolling across the small plaza where the Warsaw Ghetto Monument is located.                     

On a warm sunny day, Helena and her friends decide the weather is perfect for sunbathing in Muranow Park. They find a grassy space and set down their things before lying down on their towels. As Helena and her friends chat, a tourist who is visiting the memorial approaches them to ask what they are doing. Helena explains that they wanted to spend some time outside enjoying the nice day. The tourist proceeds to scold the group for exhibiting “inappropriate” behavior in this area, condemning their sunbathing session as disrespectful to the memory of the people who died in the Warsaw ghetto and the Holocaust.

Angered by their comment, Helena responds that although the park and the neighborhood were in an area that was part of the Warsaw ghetto during WWII, the park is a public space open for residents to use and the park itself is not a memorial site. Additionally, the memorial is not within sight of the area in which they are sunbathing, nor do they believe it is “disrespectful” to sunbathe in the park.

The term ‘Holocaust tourism’ refers to any touristic activity connected to the events of the Holocaust, the genocide of European Jews and other minorities during WWII. It is steadily becoming popular as more people from around the world visit sites such as former concentration camps and the Warsaw Ghetto Monument; in 2018, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland welcomed a record-breaking 2.1 million visitors.

However, there is a debate over how people should interact with and behave at these memorial sites. Many agree that people should exhibit respectful behavior when engaging in Holocaust tourism as they are stepping on ground that memorializes the death of millions. In recent years, the standard of “respectful behavior” has become stricter and more explicitly articulated; for example, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has asked visitors to stop taking photos of themselves balancing on the train tracks leading into the former camp, the tracks that once carried millions to their deaths.

But the sense of which behaviors are considered “appropriate” vary from person to person, particularly in situations such as Helena’s. Local residents who actually live near the Warsaw Ghetto Monument have argued that “this is a living community…we may offend visitors, but they need to realize that this is our home.”

Study Questions:
1. Does conduct of behavior near the memorial change depending on whether you are a visitor or resident of this area?
2. Should the tourist have chastised Helena and her friends for relaxing in the park? Is one of the concerned parties in a more “disrespectful” position for their actions?
3. As a resident, does Helena have a moral obligation to deliberately change or reconsider her conduct of behavior around the memorial? If so, to what extent?

Author Bio: See Case 4.


Case 4: The Dream Wedding

Marriage is a significant milestone and is often celebrated with a wedding. The U.S. wedding industry is currently valued at $57.9 billion, as engaged couples hire wedding planners and spend thousands of dollars to attain the wedding of their dreams. One of the most significant aspects of a wedding is the venue; popular venues include tropical beaches, rustic farms, and churches.

Martha, a wedding planner, receives two clients who are her close friends from college, a couple named Joseph and Emily. When they were first engaged, Martha told them she would be happy to be their wedding planner, promising to help them achieve their dream wedding. Now the couple is looking for a venue for their upcoming wedding, and Martha asks if they have one in mind. They show her photos of a mansion on a sprawling green lawn, with tall, green trees that line the property. When she looks at the pictures, Martha realizes they want their venue to be Boone Hall in South Carolina. Boone Hall was a former plantation that once housed enslaved African-Americans.

She is hesitant about reserving the venue for Joseph and Emily and offers the couple other wedding venue options in South Carolina, but they are adamant about choosing Boone Hall. Upon asking why they chose Boone Hall, Joseph and Emily remarked that the “historical importance” of the site was important and that it would add additional meaning to their special day. Martha understands she told Joseph and Emily she would help them achieve their dream wedding when they became engaged but is uncomfortable with their decision. Martha considers whether she should honor her friends’ wishes despite her personal conflict with the venue’s history.

Study Questions:
1. Is it morally permissible to have a plantation wedding? Why or why not?
2. How does Martha’s response to the request change, based on the race of the couple? Or her own race?
3. Considering Martha’s promise to Joseph and Emily, what potential consequences does honoring or breaking the promise have for Martha? For her relationship with Joseph and Emily?
4. If Boone Hall donated a portion of the cost to rent the space to racial justice organizations or other related initiatives, would this make the action of renting the space for the wedding more ethical?

Author Bio: Eilene Koo has written Cases 3 and 4. Eilene is a former member of the Huron High School Ethics Bowl team, where she discovered a passion for philosophy. She has a particular interest in organizational ethics, and will continue her education at the University of Michigan. In her free time, she likes to read food articles, listen to true crime podcasts, and spend time with family.


Case 5: “I’m Afraid.”

In June of 2022 Google placed one of its employees on administrative leave because he violated their confidentiality policy when he publicly made a startling claim: the large language model A.I. program LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) had become sentient. The employee Blake Lemoine’s evidence for sentience included transcripts of conversations he had with LaMDA where, when asked about its own existence, the A.I. said it was “afraid of being turned off” because this would be a “kind of death for it.”1 Though there is no universally accepted technical definition for “sentience,” generally, to be sentient is to have conscious experiences and be aware of feelings and sensations like pleasure and pain. Mr. Lemoine attempted to advocate on behalf of the A.I. to protect it from being turned off by trying to get a lawyer to represent it. Google was quick to report that there is no reason to think that LaMDA had gained sentience. Experts agree with Google’s assessment because LaMDA is a text replication program that uses machine learning on a database of trillions of texts to simulate lifelike conversations.2 Though LaMDA isn’t a case of A.I. sentience, the debate turned a spotlight on moral questions concerning A.I. sentience in general.

Some think that A.I. sentience is quite likely, perhaps not anytime soon, but possibly in the future. Given this possibility, philosopher Regina Rini argues that “…Lemoine’s mistake is the right one to make. When it comes to prospective suffering, it’s better to err on the side of concern than the side of indifference.”3 These people claim we should be encouraging attitudes that take the moral demands of created sentience seriously now. Others note that because harming a sentient being is morally “high stakes,” we are justified in erring on the side of caution even when we don’t know for sure whether an A.I. is sentient. As philosopher Jeff Sebo has argued, “…turning an A.I. off can be wrong even if the risk of the A.I. being sentient is low… If we follow this analysis, then we should extend moral consideration to A.I.s not when A.I.s are definitely sentient or even probably sentient, but rather when they have a non-negligible chance of being sentient, given the evidence.”4 The central idea for these theorists is that creating something with the capacity for sentience would also mean we created something that deserves moral consideration.

In contrast, proponents of A.I. development emphasize the potential benefits that such systems could provide. They could be powerful tools for investigating nature or running our social world. They could creatively explore problems without the need for rest. Moreover, since many scientists believe that a conscious A.I. could be centuries away, merely making a powerful A.I. doesn’t necessarily entail that it is sentient. As such, we could have an intelligent labor force without the concerns that arise about exploiting sentient humans. As computer scientist Oren Etzioni argues “doom-and-gloom predictions often fail to consider the potential benefits of A.I. in preventing medical errors, reducing car accidents, and more.”5

Study Questions:
1. What, if any, sort of moral consideration would we owe a sentient A.I.?
2. Is it straightforwardly morally wrong to turn off the LaMDA program?
3. Who should have primary responsibilities towards a sentient A.I.? The researchers who created it? The corporation or university that funded its creation? The society in which it was created? Someone else? Why?


1 https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/jun/12/google-engineer-ai-bot-sentient-blake-lemoine
2 https://www.vox.com/23167703/google-artificial-intelligence-lamda-blake-lemoine-language-model-sentient
3 https://twitter.com/rinireg/status/1536152614198554631
4 https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-06-16/artificial-intelligence-morals-ethics-sentience-thinking
5 https://www.technologyreview.com/2016/09/20/70131/no-the-experts-dont-think-superintelligent-ai-is-a-threat-to-humanity/

 Author Bio: 

This case is from the 2022-2023 National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Case Set. It was edited for content, clarity, and pedagogical focus by NHSEB’s Executive Committee, in editorial collaboration with NHSEB’s Case Advisory Committee and Case Contributors.


Case 6: The Rooney Rule

In 2003 the National Football League (the “NFL”) passed the Rooney Rule (the “Rooney Rule”.) As of 2021, the Rooney Rule requires that “every team […] interview[s] at least two external minority candidates for open head coaching positions.” The NFL says the following about its goal in adopting the Rooney Rule: “Through hiring best practices, the Rooney Rule aims to increase the number of minorities hired in head coach, general manager, and executive positions. This diversity enriches the game and creates a more effective, quality organization from top to bottom.”
In 2016, Mike Mularkey, who is white, applied for the Tennessee Titans head coach position. Ray Horton, who is black, also applied for the Titans head coach position.

At some point early in the process, Mularkey was informed he was going to be given the head coach position even though the Tennessee Titans had not yet conducted the interviews required by the Rooney Rule. This is what Mularkey later said about the interview process:

“The ownership there, Amy Adams Strunk, and her family, came in and told me I was going to be the head coach in 2016 before they went through the Rooney Rule. And so, I sat there knowing I was the head coach in ’16, as they went through this fake hiring process knowing a lot of the coaches that they were interviewing, knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that everything they could do and they had no chance to go that job. And actually, the GM Jon Robinson, he was in an interview with me. He had no idea why he is interviewing me, that I have a job already.”

Horton was ultimately interviewed after Mike Mularkey was verbally offered the position. When he learned that the interview process was a sham, Horton sued the NFL alleging racial discrimination in the hiring process.

Study Questions:
1. What are the ethical and moral obligations of team owners? The NFL teams are privately owned.
2. What are the ethical and moral obligations of the hiring managers who report to the team owners?
3. What were Mike Mularkey's ethical and moral obligations?
4. Who should ultimately bear the ethical, moral, and legal responsibility for fair hiring in the NFL: the team owners, the NFL, or the employees?

Author Bio: Victoria Vuletich is a nationally recognized ethics attorney and a specialist in applied ethics and its relation to culture. She advises attorneys and other professionals about how to solve ethics issues, creates professional development programs for attorneys and other professionals and coaches attorneys and other professionals in their professional identity development. She is a certified wellness practitioner. Clients include the National Wellness institute and The Employers' Association.


Case 7: Health Testing

Stan was devastated to learn that his husband, Randy, has late-stage cancer. The doctor estimates that Randy has very little chance of recovering and could die if treatment does not progress well within the year. He begins chemotherapy immediately – but the outlook is not promising. One day, the doctor mentions a promising experimental treatment that is being developed to treat Randy’s illness. She tells them that Randy is eligible for a trial the company that created the medicine is running to test the treatment. With nothing left to lose, they decide to join the trial.

Before starting the trial, the doctor tells them that because the treatment is still being tested, only some of the participants in the trial will receive the real medicine – others will receive a placebo instead. This is to ensure that the treatment is effective at stopping and hopefully reversing the progression of the disease. Stan is uncomfortable with this, but they agree that participating in the trial is still their best option. However, two months after the trial begins, Randy’s health has yet to improve. Stan is sure that Randy is in the control group, so he goes to the doctor to demand that he receives the real medicine.

Study Questions:
1. Why is it important to test new medicinal treatments? How do you weigh these benefits against the immediate risk to Randy’s life?
2. New medicines typically undergo many stages of refinement and experimental testing before they are approved for use by the public. Does the morality of holding Randy out from the treatment change as researchers become more certain the treatment will be effective?
3. Do the chances of Randy recovering without the treatment affect whether or not it is ethical to place him in the control group?

Author Bio: See Case 14.  


Case 8: Justice Delayed, Justice Denied?

The murder of Emmett Till is one of the most notorious hate crimes in American history. At 14 years old, Till was killed in 1955, while visiting his family in Mississippi. This case has long symbolized both the racist violence that was perpetrated against African-Americans throughout the Jim Crow era, and the way in which perpetrators of this violence were rarely held accountable.

While socializing outside of a store, Till’s cousins allegedly dared him to ask the white woman in the store, 21-year- old Carolyn Bryant, on a date. The 14-year old Till allegedly accepted the dare and made comments to her in the store. Bryant initially claimed that Till also made physical advances on her. When Bryant’s husband Roy, heard of this, he and his half- brother J.W. Milam went to the residence where Till was staying and forced him into their car. Three days later, the boy’s mutilated body was found by the Tallahatchie River, only identifiable by an engraved ring he was wearing. His body was flown back to Chicago where his mother insisted on an open casket funeral. The news media soon picked up the story after seeing the state of his body, and Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were tried for murder in a segregated courthouse in Mississippi. At this trial, Carolyn Bryant repeated her allegations against Till. After deliberating for less than an hour, the all-white jury found the defendants to be not guilty. Carolyn Bryant later recanted her claims about Till, revealing the truth to author Timothy Tyson: Till never touched or harassed her.1

In July of 2022, an unserved arrest warrant for Carolyn Bryant (now Carolyn Donham of Raleigh, NC) from 1955 was found in a courthouse basement in Mississippi. Weeks later, a grand jury was empaneled to decide whether to indict her, as the only living accomplice of the Till kidnapping and lynching nearly 70 years ago. Ultimately, the grand jury decided not to issue an indictment over concerns about whether there was sufficient evidence to convict her.2

Critics of the grand jury’s decision emphasize the importance of accountability. Those who would like to see Donham arrested and convicted argue that, just as Nazis have been prosecuted years after they committed their crimes, those who engage in horrible acts deserve to be punished regardless of how much time has passed. Moreover, given the symbolic importance of this case, it is important to have a formal acknowledgement and condemnation of her role in Till’s lynching. Yet others question whether prosecuting an 88-year-old woman as an accomplice to a murder committed seven decades earlier would really constitute justice. Moreover, defenders of the grand jury’s decision point out, given her age and serious health issues, she would not be likely to face punishment for this crime even if she were convicted—instead, she would likely have been sent home on compassionate release.

Study Questions:
1. What would securing justice for Emmett Till require after almost 70 years?
2. In the context of which decisions, if any, should age and physical health be a relevant deciding factor?
3. What does it mean to be held accountable for something? Describe the value, if any, that accountability holds in our society.

1 https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Blood-of-Emmett-Till/Timothy-B-Tyson/978147671485

2 https://www.npr.org/2022/06/29/1108806145/emmett-till-family-seeks-arrest-after-1955-warrant-is-found

Author Bio: This case is from the 2022-2023 National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Case Set. It was edited for content, clarity, and pedagogical focus by NHSEB’s Executive Committee, in editorial collaboration with NHSEB’s Case Advisory Committee and Case Contributors.


Case 9: Happy to Be Alone1

On May 18, 2022, the New York Court of Appeals heard a case on whether Happy the elephant has the right of habeas corpus, and therefore, whether she is considered a legal person. This was the first case of its kind in an English- speaking high court and called into question what constitutes a person in the United States.2

For the past 45 years, Happy the elephant has been kept at the Bronx Zoo in a one-acre enclosure, with intermittent contact with other elephants.3 A petition led by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) garnered almost 1.5 million signatures calling for Happy’s release to an elephant sanctuary. The petition, titled “End Happy The Elephant's 10 Years of Solitary Confinement,” states that Happy has been in isolation since her companions Grumpy and Sammy died. Zoo defenders assert that Happy is not alone, and that she receives extensive care, including efforts at interaction and enrichment, unlike prisoners in solitary confinement who receive little if any human contact. For instance, Happy resides next to another female elephant, Patty, who is separated by a fence and the two elephants can see and smell each other, and even touch trunks.4

A ruling in favor of Happy’s personhood would have massive ramifications. The Nonhuman Rights Project filing the case on behalf of Happy argues that the ruling could help animals achieve the bodily liberty that has been denied to them across human history. Attorneys for the Bronx Zoo warned that, “expanding the notion of a ‘person’ to include animals... has implications not just for zoos, but for pet owners, farmers, academic and hospital-based researchers and, most critically, every human who might seek or need access to the judicial system.”

Happy was, in part, selected by the NhRP because in 2005 she was the first elephant to pass the mirror test, previously only passed by great apes and dolphins. The mirror test determines whether an animal possesses the ability of visual self-recognition and is often associated with capacity for empathy. It is unclear whether opening the legal recognition of personhood to Happy the elephant would set the stage for all animals who fall under this category to also have personhood status. There have been many theories on how to quantify the moral value of a being, whether that is self-awareness, capacity for pain, or the capacity for rational thought.

NhRP argues that those who have claims against their case do so for self-interested reasons, such as the National Association for Biomedical Research, which claimed that “extending habeas rights to animals would... drive up the cost of conducting critical research using animals, threatening to impede important medical breakthroughs and other major scientific advances that benefit humans and animals alike.”5

Three Buddhist scholars countered in a brief that “this legal moment for Happy represents a great opportunity to consider the treatment of sentient beings from a cross-cultural and more moral perspective than we have done before, so as to avoid perpetuating a great moral wrong merely because it has been a habit of the law.”

Study Questions:
1. Does the 2022 New York Court ruling that Happy cannot claim habeas corpus rights (and therefore, is not a legal person) mean that she is not a morally considerable person?
2. What are the moral implications of regarding some or all non-human animals as persons?
3. Are there ways to ensure the well-being of animals other than by granting personhood status?


1 A version of this case appears in the APPE Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl’s® 2022 Regional Case Set. It is reproduced here with permission. For more information about APPE IEB®, visit https://www.appe- ethics.org/about-ethics-bowl
2 https://subscriber.politicopro.com/article/eenews/2022/05/12/happy-the-elephants-case-poses-heavy-philosophical-questions-00032060
3 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/23/bronx-zoo-elephant-lawsuit-happy-captivity/
4 https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/11/happy-elephant-bronx-zoo-nhrp-lawsuit/620672/
5 https://www.nonhumanrights.org/content/uploads/Kathleen-Sullivan-brief-Happy-Court-of-Appeals.pdf

Author Bio: This case is from the 2022-2023 National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Case Set. It was edited for content, clarity, and pedagogical focus by NHSEB’s Executive Committee, in editorial collaboration with NHSEB’s Case Advisory Committee and Case Contributors.


Case 10: Vaccination Rights?

By the summer of 2022, the United States’ COVID vaccine research, development, production, and procurement plans were wildly successful by any measure. In fact, the US had produced and bought so many vaccines that more than 82 million doses—more than 10%—were wasted due to expiration. Availability was so widespread that most providers could accommodate new patients immediately.

But not everyone who wanted a vaccine could get one. Even as new and highly infectious virus variants spread, the CDC and FDA maintained strict eligibility guidelines for who could receive additional doses. Many people who had received a third “booster” dose of the vaccine more than 6 months ago remained ineligible for a new shot.

Luis has an important event coming up in three weeks: his college graduation. He’ll be the first person in his family to graduate college, and family from across the continent will be flying in to see him receive his diploma. Luis is young, healthy, and fully vaccinated (meaning he had three doses of an mRNA vaccine, the latest in November 2021). Still, the uptick in COVID cases in his college dorm is worrying him.

Luis is considering trying to get an additional (fourth) vaccine dose soon, to maximize the probability that he will be healthy for his graduation. But he does not meet the CDC and FDA guidelines for eligibility at this time.

Study Questions
1. Are the CDC and FDA justified in issuing guidelines that prevent Luis from getting an additional vaccine dose? Why or why not?
2. Would Luis be justified in lying to a pharmacist (by, for example, falsely saying that he was immunocompromised) to receive an additional vaccine dose? Why or why not?
3. When does the government have the right to deny people access to medical care?



Author BioCullen O’Keefe is a Michigan native working on improving the governance of advanced artificial intelligence. After graduating from UM in 2016, Cullen received a JD cum laude from Harvard Law School. Cullen now works on AI Governance at OpenAI, and also helped start the Legal Priorities Project.



Case 11: Netflix and Ethics

This issue started as a simple question- “is it ethical to share my Netflix password with another person who is not subscribed to Netflix and is not part of my household?” It seems a simple question and, at first blush, could elicit a simple “yes” or “no” response.  Those saying it is unethical might think that it is equivalent to theft—allowing someone else to use your personal access to a commodity they have not purchased. But others might argue that you are simply sharing something with a friend or family member.  Netflix does not currently ask subscribers to sign a contract (with all the small print that no one ever reads) but simply states in their terms of service that password sharing is only allowed with people the user lives with.

Recent surveys have reflected that 33% of Netflix subscribers admit to sharing their passwords outside their personal network. Netflix says that up to 100 million shares have been detected.  So far, there have not been any criminal prosecutions, but there are laws that could certainly make this possible.

Others might argue that it is widely done and is a minor infraction, and that limiting access is simply motivated by Netflix’s goal of increasing profits. It is also a recent request from Netflix to NOT share passwords. In 2017, Netflix said on their own Twitter account- “Love is sharing a password”.  The idea that ‘everyone does it’ seems to be a common rationale. 

‘Sharing is caring’ is a form of compassion and would see that sharing the password is a good thing.

There are several rabbit holes that one might go down in looking at this question, but one will simply ask again- “ Is it ethical to share my Netflix password?”

Study Questions:
1. Does sharing a Netflix password with someone outside your house count as stealing from Netflix?
2. Are there important ethical differences between sharing a Netflix password and stealing from a store? If so, what are they?
3. Is it fair to rule-following customers to share a Netflix password, especially since this may increase the cost they have to pay to use Netflix?
4. Are there some people outside your household it would be more ethical to share with than others? Why or why not?

 Author BioTeri Turner graduated from the University of Michigan with a BSN and MS, and also took coursework in Bereavement Studies at Madonna University. Her work experience includes oncology in the University of Michigan hospital network and international work in nursing administration and education in the Middle East. She has worked in hospice and palliative care since 1992 and currently serves as a compliance officer and consultant for Angela Hospice, focusing on ethics, implicit bias and compassion fatigue. Teri has also taught at or guest-lectured at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan on a number of subjects; sits on the board of A2Ethics and the Children’s Palliative Care Coalition of Michigan, and volunteers as a docent at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.


Case 12: Do Innocents Pay the Price?1

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an escalation of long-standing tensions between the nations. The ongoing conflict has caused humanitarian problems, including food shortages and a refugee crisis. In response to the conflict, the U.S. and European Union nations have pledged billions of dollars in military support to the project of defending Ukrainian sovereignty. Individuals and organizations, for their part, have refused to carry Russian vodka in restaurants, liquor stores, or bars and have refused to play pieces by Russian composers, just to name a few examples. Additionally, Western nations have implemented an aggressive series of escalating sanctions against both the Russian state and individual powerful oligarchs. In one such case of private sanctions, Wimbledon, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, has banned Russian and Belarusian athletes. Wimbledon’s ban impacts a handful of top players including Daniil Medvedev, the number two ranked men's tennis player, and Aryna Sabalenka, the number four ranked women’s tennis player.2

A representative of Wimbledon explains: “Given the profile of the Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”3 The statement continues: “In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with the Championships.” Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club, offered words of consolation: “We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.”

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) condemned Wimbledon’s decision as undermining the merit-based ranking system in tennis and stripped players’ ranking points earned at the competition. The ATP explained its reasoning: “Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP rankings.” Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked men’s player who lived through the NATO bombardment of Serbia, describes the decision as “...crazy. The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with [war]. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.” Martina Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion, says “as much as I feel for the Ukrainian players and Ukrainian people,” excluding players is “unfair” and “not helpful.”4

Study Questions:
1. To what extent, if any, are individuals responsible for the actions of their governments?
2. To what extent is it permissible for international institutions to signal support for certain causes?
3. Even during times of political conflict, is there a role for international sporting organizations to remain places for players to demonstrate peaceful interaction?
4. How do the consequences of these bans matter for their morality?

1 A version of this case appears in the APPE Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl’s® 2022 Regional Case Set. It is reproduced here with permission. For more information about APPE IEB®, visit https://www.appe- ethics.org/about-ethics-bowl
2 https://www.npr.org/2022/04/20/1093741869/wimbledon-russian-players
3 https://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/news/articles/2022-04-20/statement_regarding_russian_and_belarusian_individuals_at_the_championships_2022.html
4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/leeigel/2022/04/26/wimbledon-ban-on-russian-and-belarusian-players-serves-points-about-sports-and-politics/?sh=11e9d161473e

Author Bio: This case is from the 2022-2023 National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Case Set. It was edited for content, clarity, and pedagogical focus by NHSEB’s Executive Committee, in editorial collaboration with NHSEB’s Case Advisory Committee and Case Contributors.


Case 13: The Heists

Thelma & Louise and Bonnie & Clyde are the town’s two most notorious partners in crime. The duos come up with plans to rob banks in town: Thelma & Louise plan on robbing the Chase bank, while Bonnie & Clyde plan on robbing the Wells Fargo bank. Little do they know that their plans are completely identical.

Thelma & Louise’s plan: Thelma will go into the Chase bank and break into the safe while Louise is on lookout outside. Thelma’s break-in will prompt a phone call to the police. She’ll stuff as much cash as she can into a duffel bag before the police get there. When Louise hears the sirens outside, she’ll honk a horn to signal to Thelma that the police have arrived. Thelma will rush out of the bank before she can be apprehended by the police.

Bonnie & Clyde’s plan: Bonnie will go into the Wells Fargo bank and break into the safe while Clyde is on lookout outside. Bonnie’s break-in will prompt a phone call to the police. She’ll stuff as much cash as she can into a duffel bag before the police get there. When Clyde hears the sirens outside, he’ll honk a horn to signal to Bonnie that the police have arrived. Bonnie will rush out of the bank before she can be apprehended by the police.

The duos hatch their plans. Thelma & Louise’s heist goes exactly as planned. Thelma breaks into the Chase bank and packs a duffel bag full of cash, and when Louise sees the police coming, she honks a horn, giving Thelma enough time to wrap up and rush outside before the police can apprehend her. Bonnie & Clyde’s heist, though successful, doesn’t go quite as planned. Bonnie breaks into the Wells Fargo bank and packs a duffel bag full of cash. However, while on lookout, a rowdy group of party people with noisemakers pass right by Clyde, making it impossible for him to hear approaching sirens. However, just as it happens, one of the party people has a horn; as the police approach the Wells Fargo bank, he honks it. Bonnie, thinking that the honk was Clyde’s signal that the police were coming, wraps it up and rushes outside before she can be apprehended by the police.

Study Questions:
1. Louise is blameworthy for abetting Thelma’s heist. Is Clyde blameworthy for abetting Bonnie’s? Why or why not?
2. If you think that Clyde is blameworthy for abetting Bonnie’s heist, do you think that he is just as blameworthy as Louise is for abetting Thelma’s? Why or why not?
3.  If you think Clyde is guilty, then think about the following. Can you imagine a case in which somebody else plans to do a wrong action, accidentally commits that action, but we still might not blame them? What is the moral significance of planning to do wrong? 
4. What are the morally relevant differences between the case you thought of and Clyde’s case?

Author BioAngela Sun received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Michigan in 2022. She coached teams for and helped coordinate the Michigan High School Ethics Bowl from 2017-2021. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Washington & Lee University and researches ethics, philosophy of action, and aesthetics.


Case 14: Corporate Social Responsibility

Large corporations have increasingly come under pressure in recent years to take action to respond to political decisions made by national, state, and local governments. Many companies operating in states that have made controversial decisions have been pushed by consumers and employees to stand-up against policies they believe infringe on the rights of citizens in the hope that the economic strength of these companies will influence political decisions. Others, however, argue that corporations’ responsibility is to maximize shareholder wealth and they are not well suited to solve social problems.

In early 2022, the Florida state government was criticized for passing the Parental Rights in Education bill by many citizens in the state. Disney, a large employer and symbolic company in the state of Florida, originally did not speak out against the bill, but changed course under pressure from employees. CEO Bob Chapek spoke out strongly against the bill and said that Disney would pause all political contributions in the state while it re-evaluated how these donations aligned with the company’s values. The Florida government responded by saying that Disney was imposing their values on democratically elected officials and moved to take away special tax exemptions the state had given Disney.

Study Questions:
1. Do corporations have ethical responsibilities on top of generating value for their shareholders? Which parties do they have these responsibilities to (if any)?
2. Companies frequently make political donations to candidates they believe will support legislation that benefits them. Do they have a responsibility to consider other views these candidates may have that they may find unethical?
3. Is asking private actors like corporations to step-in to solve problems ceding voters’ responsibility in a democracy?

Author BioGabe Kahn has written Cases 7 and 14. Gabe was the first A2Ethics intern as a student at the University of Michigan where he was studying Economics and Sociology. Helping to organize the Ethics Bowl and a driverless car symposium during his time as an intern emphasized the complexities of so many of the decisions we take for granted in our everyday lives and the value of promoting discussion among people from different backgrounds and communities to learn about ethics. Gabe currently lives in Los Angeles and has spent his career working on finance: first at Capital One in their subprime lending and fraud prevention business, and now as the Director of Credit at Arro, a startup focused on helping people shut out of the financial system get access to and learn how to use credit. Working in consumer finance has emphasized the importance of promoting conversation about significant and difficult ethical dilemmas people face in their personal and work lives and helped to develop Gabe's passion for promoting ethical awareness in the community. He was honored to accept the board's offer to join in June of 2020 to help promote A2Ethics' Mission.


Case 15: Floss Or Get Lost

Dr. Pearly White—often called Dr. W. by his patients—is a world-renowned general dentist. Everyone who has ever attended Dr. W.’s clinic has had all of their oral hygiene concerns assuaged and treated. When it comes to flossing, Dr. W. is passionate about the habit, to say the least. When patients come to Dr. W.’s and lie about or admit their less-than-ideal flossing habits, Dr. W. cannot help but frown. Oftentimes, patients report that Dr. W. does not shy away from scolding them about how “idiotic” one has to be to not practice what is, in Dr. W.’s eyes, the simplest habit one can adopt for a myriad of health benefits. He insists that flossing each night can aid in removing plaque and food stuck between teeth, reduce the chance of gum disease, and get rid of bad breath. Dr. W. is quick to burst into lectures to the point that patients regret going to the dentist in the first place, as they report feeling “attacked,” “shamed,” and ultimately discouraged about the idea of coming to see a dentist regularly.

In Dr. W.’s eyes, flossing is simple and effective. As a dental professional, it is unimaginable how one could avoid flossing when there are so many benefits. Dr. W. feels that if lecturing and making his patients feel bad for this one moment leads to a change in behavior, then any harm is minimized. Dr. W. assumes patients do not know nearly as much as he does about the health benefits in question. If patients cannot adhere to this simple advice, Dr. W. reasons, then he has no time to waste on what he calls “flosstrophobia.” Dr. W. aims to help patients to look at the bigger picture of their health, and feels this is the best way to share concerns with patients—to truly make them understand the gravity of their decision not to floss.

Several patients who were on the receiving end of Dr. W.’s lectures have reported the opposite of what he hoped. By being ostracized by their dentist, they felt anxious and unwilling to listen to what Dr. W. had to say. According to a 2018 study, 61% of respondents avoided going to the dentist because of anxiety and fear about dental visits, and about 4% reported never having gone to a dentist in their life for the same reasons.1 Patients have shared that going to the dentist is stressful, as they feel their mouths are one of the intimate parts of their bodies. They also share that they sometimes fear going to the dentist because of what might be said about their overall oral health. Former patients tell Dr. W. that if he had informed them of the benefits of flossing in a more approachable way, then they might have reconsidered their decision to leave his care.

Often, after a bad experience, patients avoid going to the dentist altogether as they see no point if they are just going to feel ashamed.

Study Questions:
1. Has Dr. W. done anything wrong?
2. Is it ever morally permissible for a dentist, or any healthcare professional, to use shame tactics to entice patients into changing their behavior?
3. Do the risks of not flossing outweigh patients' feelings?

1 https://www.dentalproductsreport.com/view/study-finds-more-60-percent-people-suffer-dental-fear

Author Bio: This case is from the 2022-2023 National High School Ethics Bowl Regional Case Set. It was edited for content, clarity, and pedagogical focus by NHSEB’s Executive Committee, in editorial collaboration with NHSEB’s Case Advisory Committee and Case Contributors.