To get an idea of your own moral stance, consider this problem posed to adolescent boys by Harvard University Prof. Lawrence Kohlberg:
In Europe, a woman was near death from a very bad disease. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her--a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could get together only about $1,000, which was half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife.
Was it morally right or wrong to have done that? Why or why not?
When psychologist Carol Gilligan presented the Heinz dilemma to both boys and girls, she determined that the answers from a boy, Jake, and a girl, Amy, show that "these two children see two very different moral problems." Jake views it as a problem of rights, she says, a perspective more common to men and traditionally considered "more mature." Amy sees it as a problem of responsibility, a view more common to women and traditionally considered "immature."
"Jake, at 11, is clear from the outset that Heinz should steal the drug," notes Gilligan. "Constructing the dilemma, as Kohlberg did, as a conflict between the values of property and life, he discerns the logical priority of life and uses that logic to justify his choice:
"For one thing, a human life is worth more than money, and if the druggist only makes $1,000 he is still going to live, but if Heinz doesn't steal the drug, his wife is going to die."
Amy, also 11, "sees the dilemma not as a math problem with humans, but as a narrative of relationships that extends over time. She considers the dilemma to arise not from the druggist's assertion of rights but from his failure of response:
"I don't think Heinz should steal the drug. If he stole the drug, he might save his wife then, but if he did, he might have to go to jail, and then his wife might get sicker again, and he couldn't get more of the drug and it might not be good. So they should really just talk it out and find some other way to make the money."
According to Kohlberg's definition of the stages and sequences of moral development, Amy's moral judgments appear to be a full stage lower in maturity than Jake's, says Gilligan. "Yet the world she knows is a different world from that refracted by Kohlberg's construction of Heinz's dilemma.
"Her world is a world of relationships . . . Her belief in communication as the mode of conflict resolution and her conviction that the solution to the dilemma will follow from its compelling representation seem far from naive or cognitively immature. Instead, Amy's judgments contain the insights central to an ethic of care."