The Heinz Dilemma

In the Heinz Dilemma, Kohlberg told children a story about a woman in Europe who is near death because she has a special type of cancer. The doctors believe there is one drug that might save her: a form of radium recently discovered by the druggist of that same town. Though it is expensive to make the drug, the druggist is charging ten times what it costs to make. He paid $200 and is charging $2,000 for a small dose.

Heinz, the sick woman’s husband, tries to borrow money from everyone that he knows but only manages to get $1,000—half of what the druggist is charging. Heinz tells the druggist of his dying wife and asks him if he is willing to sell it at a cheaper price or allow Heinz to pay him back later, but the druggist refuses, saying he discovered the drug and will make money from it. Heinz, desperate, breaks into the druggist’s store to steal the drug for his wife. Kohlberg then poses the question, “Should the husband have done that?”

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s theory on the stages of moral development was a modification of the work performed by Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist...

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The answers to the dilemmas were not as important to Kohlberg as the reasoning behind the decisions. Based on his research, the children’s responses were classified into three levels and six stages.