Heinz Dilemma

The Heinz dilemma is a thought exercise that is used to study ethics and morality scenarios. In psychology it is used in Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Kohlberg would present this dilemma to people and then ask questions to determine their stage of moral development.

Here is the Heinz dilemma:

Heinz’s wife was dying from a particular type of cancer. Doctors said a new drug might save her. The drug had been discovered by a local chemist and the Heinz tried desperately to buy some, but the chemist was charging ten times the money it cost to make the drug and this was much more than the Heinz could afford. Heinz could only raise half the money, even after help from family and friends. He explained to the chemist that his wife was dying and asked if he could have the drug cheaper or pay the rest of the money later. The chemist refused, saying that he had discovered the drug and was going to make money from it. The husband was desperate to save his wife, so later that night he broke into the chemist’s and stole the drug.

Kohlberg would then ask the following questions:

1. Should Heinz have stolen the drug? 2. Would it change anything if Heinz did not love his wife? 3. What if the person dying was a stranger, would it make any difference?

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