Biomedical ethics

BME201e Tutor-Marked Assignment

This tutor-marked assignment is worth 24% of the final mark for BME 201e Biomedical Ethics.
The cut-off date for the assignment is 06 August 2017, Sunday at 2355hrs.
Submit your solution document in the form of a single MS Word file on or before the cut-off
date shown above.
This TMA covers materials studied in Unit 1 to Unit 3 of the module. You should review these
materials in both your textbook and the unit notes before beginning the assignment. In addition,
you may find it necessary to perform additional research in order to provide better answers to
the questions.
TMA Instruction
Read the below article extracted from Wikipedia and answer the following questions related to
the article.
Takata Corporation
Takata was founded in 1933 in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, by Takezo Takada and started to
produce lifelines for parachutes, and other textiles. In the early 1950s, the company started to
research seat belts. Later they incorporated as “Takata”. In the 1960s, Takata started to sell seatbelts and built the world’s first crash test plant for testing seat-belts under real world conditions.
In the 1970s, Takata developed child restraint systems. In the 1980s, the company changed its
name to “Takata Corporation” and expanded to Korea, the United States, and later to Ireland, to
sell seat-belts. In the 1990s, Takata expanded internationally.
In 2000, Takata Corporation acquired German competitor Petri AG, forming the European
subsidiary Takata-Petri, renamed Takata AG in early 2012. Takata AG makes steering wheels
and plastic parts, not only for the automotive industry.
1995 seat belt recall
In May 1995, a recall in the United States (U.S.) affected 8,428,402 predominantly Japanese
built vehicles manufactured from 1986 to 1991 with seat belts manufactured by the Takata
Corporation of Japan. It was called at that time the “second largest recall in the 30 year history
of the Department of Transportation (DOT)”. The recall was prompted by an investigation
(PE94-052) carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on
Takata-equipped Honda vehicles, after many of their owners complained of seat belt buckles
either failing to latch, latching and releasing automatically, or releasing in accidents. It revealed
that potentially faulty Takata seat belts were not limited only to Honda vehicles, but to other
Japanese imports as well. NHTSA opened a second investigation on Takata seat belts (EA94-
036) as well as individual investigations on vehicle manufacturers using Takata seat belts to
determine the magnitude of the defect. This second investigation was only limited to the front
seat belt buckles and in particular Takata’s 52X and A7X models. It was determined that a total
of 11 manufacturers were affected by the investigation. Japanese models sold in the U.S. byBME201e Tutor-Marked Assignment

American Honda Motor Co., Isuzu Motors of America Inc., Mazda Motor of America Inc.,
Nissan North America, Daihatsu Motor Co, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. and Subaru
of America Inc. also had affected seat belt buckles. Moreover, Chrysler, General Motors and
Ford had various car models manufactured by Japanese companies using the seat belt buckles
concerned, but sold under American names such as the Dodge Stealth and the Geo series (except
Prizm) under General Motors. Ford had vehicles such as the Probe manufactured by Mazda on
its MX-6 platform and the Festiva made by Kia in South Korea, but engineered by Mazda that
also had Takata seat belts. However, unlike Chrysler and General Motors, Ford did not admit
that their seat belts could be defective.
Initially, some of the Japanese manufacturers suspected that the seat belt failures were a result of
user abuse, rather than a design failure. However, the nine-month investigation by NHTSA
concluded that the cause of the defect was that the buckles were made of ABS plastic. Through
exposure to ultraviolet light over a period of time, the plastic became brittle and pieces fell off,
causing a jamming of the release button mechanism.
The manufacturers involved agreed to a voluntary recall, though this did not go smoothly, with
only 18% of the 8.9 million cars and trucks with the Takata belt buckle having been repaired
two years after the recall had begun. In addition, NHTSA assessed a $50,000 civil penalty
against both Honda and Takata for failing to notify the agency about the seat belt defect in a
timely manner. Honda was fined, because NHTSA believed the company knew about the hazard
at least five years before the recall, but never reported the problem to NHTSA nor offered to
conduct a voluntary recall.
Defective airbag recalls (2013–present)
Takata began making airbags in 1988 and, as of 2014, holds 20 percent of the market. In 2013,
several automakers began large recalls of vehicles due to Takata-made airbags. Reports stated
that the problems may have begun a decade before.
Honda stated they knew of more than 100 injuries and eight deaths (seven in the U.S. and one in
Malaysia) that were related to Takata airbags.
In April and May 2013, a total of 3.6 million cars were recalled due to defective Takata airbags.
All of these airbags were made at, or otherwise used inflator units manufactured by Takata’s
Monclova Plant in Coahuila, Mexico, operated by Takata’s North American/Mexican subsidiary,
TK Holdings Inc. In November 2014, BMW announced that they will move any orders from the
Mexican plant to a Takata plant in Germany.
In June 2014, Takata admitted their Mexican subsidiary had mishandled the manufacture of
explosive propellants and improperly stored chemicals used in airbags. Identifying vehicles with
defective airbags was made more difficult by the failure of TK Holdings Inc. to keep proper
quality control records. That prompted another round of recalls in June 2013.
Following this, Takata issued a statement saying, “We take this situation seriously, we will
strengthen our quality control and make a concerted effort to prevent a recurrence”.
On June 23, 2014, auto manufacturers BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and
Toyota announced they were recalling over three million vehicles worldwide due to Takata
Corporation-made airbags. The reason was that the airbags could rupture and send flying debrisBME201e Tutor-Marked Assignment

inside the vehicle. This was in response to a NHTSA investigation that was initiated after the
NHTSA received three injury complaints.
In a statement on June 23, 2014, Takata said they thought excessive moisture was the cause of
the defect. Haruo Otani, an official at the vehicle recall section of the Japan Ministry of Land,
Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, said that moisture and humidity could be seeping inside
inflators, destabilizing the volatile propellant inside.
In July 2014, a pregnant Malaysian woman was killed in a collision involving her 2003 Honda
City which contained the defective airbag. The woman, aged 42, died when a metal fragment
from the ruptured driver’s airbag sliced into her neck in the accident. She was driving at around
30 km/h when another vehicle hit her at a junction, according to a lawsuit filed by her father at a
Miami federal court. The baby, delivered after the mother’s death, died three days later.
On November 18, 2014, NHTSA ordered Takata to initiate a nationwide airbag recall. The
action came as 10 automakers in the U.S. recalled hundreds of thousands of cars equipped with
potentially faulty air bags manufactured by Takata.
As of May 19, 2015, Takata is now responsible for the largest auto recall in history. Takata has
already recalled 40 million vehicles across 12 vehicle brands for “Airbags that could explode
and potentially send shrapnel into the face and body of both the driver and front seat passenger”.
This recall will bring the number up to about 53 million automobiles affected. In November
2015, Takata was fined $200 Million ($70 million paid upfront) by U.S. federal regulators in
response to Takata’s admittance of fault. Toyota, Mazda and Honda have said that they will no
longer be using ammonium nitrate-based inflators.
On May 4, 2016, the NHTSA announced recall campaigns of an additional estimated 35-40
million inflators, adding to the already 28.8 million inflators previously recalled.
Question 1
(a) Discuss all possible reasons why the scandals involving the seat belt and airbag had
(30 marks)
(b) Assume that you were one of the inspectors in charge of checking the quality and
standards of the airbags and you noticed that the airbags were defective. Examine and
discuss some of the ethical issues you had to consider before deciding to report this
problem to the authorities.
(30 marks)
(c) (i) In the case of the defective airbags, explain the need for such a large scale global
(5 marks)
(ii) In addition to the recall to fix the airbags, recommend other strategies the
government can take to protect the consumers in the future.
(35 marks)