Ethics in Science and Technology International Dimensions of Ethics and Science and Engineering Science TEchnology and Society Initiative UMass Amherst

Dhopal Case -- Discussion Questions

1. Familiarization with the Dhopal case and stakeholders

From the Dhopal Case, read the case description [click here]. Familiarize yourself with the list of Interviewees and the list of Resource documents. Read the interview text from three of the interviewees (choose semi-randomly so that there will be some variation among what users are reading). Reply to this Topic, answering these questions:

  1. What are your first impressions about the situation?
  2. Who seems to be at fault?
  3. What additional information do you want to know at this point? 

2. Evaluating perspectives

Read several more stakeholder interviews. Pick three stakeholders you have read and Reply to this topic to answer the following questions. Make sure at least one of these stakeholders is in an engineering or technical job.

  1. How do their perspectives differ? What values, interests, biases, world views, responsibilities probably motivate each one? What are the main interests and concerns? (Consider time, money, safety, quality, relationships, integrity, reputation and power, loyalties, well-being, sustainability, etc.
  2. For each of the three, comment on the multiple roles that each person has, and on how these roles create diverse and sometimes conflicting demands or needs within the person. Example roles:
    • An employee (has a duty to help with the profit and goals of his company)
    • A supervisee, and co-worker (is motivated to keep her/his boss happy, and her/his coworkers happy)
    • A citizen (is concerned about the success and security of his country, and the wellbeing of his countrymen)
    • A householder (needs to keep his/her job to provide for his/her family)
    • A professional (has pride in his profession and wants to uphold its regulations, principles, and reputation)
    • A global citizen (wants the best for all people, present and future, and cares about the earth and environment)
    • A human being (wants to avoid unnecessary personal suffering, loss, embarrassment, confrontation, effort, etc.)
    • (Note that in these roles there may be further conflicts between short vs. long term interests.)

3. What would you do?

As you answer the rest of the questions in this forum and dialog with other participants, continue to read through the stakeholder interviews and resource documentation, according to your own curiosity.  Answer some or all of the questions, then read how others have responded and engage in dialog. From this point forward you can skip around to answer the topic questions most interesting to you.

Focus on one stakeholder with an engineering or technical job, and consider these questions:

  1. What would you have done if you were in his/her shoes? (And why?)
  2. If you were making decisions in that situation, what would you need to know?

4. Assessment of responsibility and oversight

You may want to do some additional internet searching to answer the questions below. (A full answer requires significant expertise, so just answer based on what little you know.)

  1. What could have been done to avoid the disaster?
  2. What types of oversight and regulatory bodies, procedures, and policies were applicable to the Dhopal situation?
  3. Who is at fault? Why do you think so? Describe the levels of responsibility and oversight as you see them. Could they have been improved?

5. Final reflections

1) How would you describe the major causes or problems that lead to the disaster from these perspectives:

2) Which type of factor was the most significant in the Dhopal disaster?

3) Do you have reflections on how the problems causing this disaster are reflected in contemporary trends locally or worldwide?


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