7 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008
This case presents the dilemma faced by Danville Airlines' management when one of its best pilots is found to have the inherited gene for Huntington's disease. Although he inevitably will develop the physically and mentally debilitating disease, the pilot, who has yet to experience symptoms, does not want to step down from his position. Danville Airlines explores the complicated issues of employee rights versus public safety, employee rights to privacy, and genetic testing and its effects on employees and management.
In a matter of hours, Julie Taylor, director of Human Resources at Danville Airlines in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, would have to make a difficult recommendation to the airline's board of directors. One of the airline's best pilots, David Reiger, 42, had recently lost his father to Huntington's disease, a progressive, inherited neurological disorder that causes severe movement disorder and eventual dementia. Danville officials had been concerned about Reiger's susceptibility to Huntington's. In a routine blood test for alcohol and drug use, Danville had determined—after discreetly sending the blood elsewhere to be tested—that Reiger did indeed have the gene for Huntington's disease. That meant that, at some point, Reiger would develop the disease. The airline had then informed Reiger that he had the gene. Furious that Danville had tested him without his consent, Reiger insisted that he be allowed to keep flying despite the discovery. If he developed Huntington's while still flying for the airline, Reiger told Danville, he was willing to be reassigned to a position in the company that did not involve flying. He had threatened legal action if Danville grounded him before any symptoms appeared. The Danville Board of Directors had asked Taylor for a recommendation on how to handle the situation. She investigated and found there was no established protocol for dealing with this type of situation within Danville Airlines or the airline industry in general. As she contemplated her choices, Taylor felt a huge headache coming on.
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Keywords: business ethics, ethical issues, ethics, medical, managerial ethics, public relations/publicity
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