Commentary: The Struggle Against AIDS and the Pharmaceuticals Industry – Are There Limits to the Moral Obligation to Do Good?

  • Mariëtte van den Hoven
Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (IBET, volume 28)


Anyone presupposing that pharmaceutical companies have a moral obligation to help curb the AIDS crisis challenges us to think about the outer limits of this obligation and about the substance what can reasonably be obliged. The idea that the outer frontier of the moral obligation to render assistance is reached only when one encounters a threat to the actors’ fundamental interests runs contrary to our healthy common sense. The borderline with the reasonable seems to be much closer. A need to define the boundaries of reasonable moral obligations and to justify the grounds for putting them there lies at the core of the demandingness objection in philosophy. I show that the Roche case is well suited for launching a discussion on the reasonableness of the moral obligation to render assistance. In doing so I present several arguments and how they could be applied to this case. I did not define what would be a tangible and reasonable obligation for Roche. This cannot be done in isolation for Roche or any other company. It must be done in conjunction with the moral community and in the light of normative theories. What I have tried to show in this article is that extreme positions are untenable. The moral obligation to render assistance in curbing AIDS may not elicit an all or nothing answer. The reasonable may perhaps be negotiable.


Pharmaceutical Company Moral Obligation Moral Actor Extreme Position Moral Community 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ethics Institute, Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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