Code of Ethics

Ethics in Society

The recent legal case in South Africa between the SA State and 39 international medical companies producing AIDS medicine gave reason to a lot of publicity and discussion of moral and ethics. Well knowing that these companies are acting within a free market economy it suddenly became a problem for many people that the companies would not allow production of cheap copy-medicine. Because it was a question of seriously sick people who could not afford to buy the expensive medicine the companies were supposed to act according to moral principles and accept an income loss.

The reason to this change in attitude towards companies and institutions may be the result of the situation after the collapse of communism in Europe. Marxism was opposed to the free market economy/capitalism and provided criticism. After its disappearance the market economy was left alone and after some time many people found out that market economy also have some negative side effects. In this way a New Criticism of the market economy has developed. At the same time society has become very complicated. It is difficult to identify or understand all conditions in relation to e.g. a medical production. The public relates to simple messages. Therefore ethical principles are becoming increasingly important. We judge the company on the image and the way it introduces itself and on how it is presented in the press.

Some time ago an article by William Warner (1) discussed the influence of religion on wastewater treatment. The article described by means of examples how religious beliefs can direct behaviour relating to health and hygiene. The author stated that the number of people infected by faecal-related diseases continues to grow and he asked if hygiene is controlled better under the myths of religion than the facts of science. His own answer was: probably not - but he added that if all religions commanded: wash your hands after being in the toilet such a single disciplining taboo would have a major positive impact.