Computing Cases Header, Picture of a Keyboard with the text "" printed over it


Teaching Tools

Teaching with Cases

Social Impact Analysis

Computer Ethics Curriculum

Curricula Index

Case Materials



Hughes Aircraft

Ethics in Computing Links

Contact Us

The Rush to Legalism

The Therac-25 case, Machado, and Hughes have already been adjudicated by courts. Awards have been made or people have settled out of court to avoid further litigation. We do not include this, or any other, case in our study so individuals can determine how to avoid being sued. We include it so we can understand how a system works to either provide safety or to make accidents more likely.

It is quite easy to make distinctions between what is legal and what is moral. Neither set is contained entirely by the other, though they do overlap. One can think of actions that are legal but not moral (e.g. racial discrimination in the US before the 1960s). In addition, it is easy to find examples of actions that are moral but not legal (any civil disobedience). But again, like the search for someone to blame, this false trail leads us to ignore both the complexity of the systems and many possible solutions that might lead to a safer system.