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Exploring The Ethical Theories

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Words: 1433 |

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Published: Feb 13, 2024

Words: 1433|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Feb 13, 2024

Consequentialism is an ethical theory based on whether or not a decision made or an act carried out is deemed right or wrong based on the outcome has a positive end result. Utilitarianism and Hedonism are types of consequentialism. Utilitarianism is what is the best for the greater good, for instance, what if a particular act is more beneficial for the masses rather than to just benefit one individual.

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There are two types of Utilitarianism, Act and Rule Utilitarianism. Act Utilitarianism involves each individual act to be carefully examined. For example if a decision is to be made the consequences have to be evaluated and the chosen option is of maximal benefit. However, Rule Utilitarianism evaluates the consequences adopting a certain set of rules, such as ‘Do not kill’ or ‘Do not lie’. Whether an act is right or wrong are generally based on these rules (Fletcher et al., 1995. Cited in, Hendrick).

Hedonism is one’s own pursuit to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. Bentham and Mill are described as hedonistic utilitarians because they had defined utility in terms of pleasure and happiness. Mill and Bentham’s ideas were widely respected due to the idea that they reduced moral judgements and suffering, whilst increasing happiness. (Judith Hendrick, 2000).

If the outcome of an act is a positive one in the long-term, but if the route taken to get to the positive outcome has had to endure some forms of dissatisfaction or emotional unrest then it can be seen as being justifiable, because the end result is positive. However, if the outcome was that of a negative one, the act would not be justifiable (Graham Rumbold, 1999). For example, if a person, who is a mother, father or a loved family member, is in receipt of a very invasive treatment, such as chemotherapy which is used to treat cancer. During treatment it would cause dissatisfaction and emotional turmoil, yet the end result would or could be ones wellness and overall happiness, as the patient would or could be cured. This would also be for the greater good for the said patient’s family members, as well as the patient. There are other scenarios too to help the understanding of consequentialism on a much larger scale. If a deceased person’s organs were to be donated, that one person could have suffered at some point before their death, yet many people would have gained life from the death because their organs have enabled others to sustain life. This scenario can go further too. Consequentialism would look at who would benefit from the donated organs the most and what would have the greatest outcome, although consequentialism does not have a guaranteed outcome.

The definition of deontology in the Oxford dictionary is “The study of the nature of duty and obligation” (Oxford University Press, 2019). Deontology is absolutist, in that something is wrong or right in spite of the consequences. Immanuel Kant was well known and widely influential for his ethical views surrounding the theory of deontology. The morality of an act does not justify the actions take place during the time period that it takes to get to the end result of that particular act. According to (Thompson et al., 1994) when referring to Kant “It is not the end result of an act that makes it right or wrong, but rather the moral intention of the agent” (Thompson et al., 1994. Cited in Bartter). If an act is to be carried out, it must be done with within what is ultimately right. For instance, an act that is propelled by emotions and went against a moral code of conduct, regardless whether the act was carried out for the greater good, it is wrong to do so. If an individual was to commit theft and steal food to feed the poor and hungry, it is wrong no matter of the good consequences that the result would bring. Kant theorised that if a person is to is going to make a decision it should be on that everyone should be able to follow, no matter the circumstances, beliefs or culture it should one that can be applied universally and not one where exceptions are permitted depending on the situation. There are criticisms of the deontology theory. Deontology is too absolutist (David Seedhouse, 1988) says that rights and wrongs of this ethical theory is too firm and not sensitive to people’s moral judgements. Deontology states that it is wrong to lie in any context of a situation. There could be situations that arise in a health care setting that justifies an untruth to be told. This could be a case where a family has been involved in a catastrophic car accident, involving the fatalities of some of the family members. If one of the surviving family members was to ask how a relative is, after the accident and this relative was deceased, but, the truth would cause the surviving family member severe distress, which would prolong the need for emergency treatment. It would be in the best interest of the survivor to not be told this information until they were in a more stable condition. There is no direction on how decisions should be made a lie is being told to protect a person. It also has the presumption that as a society people all live by the same righteous moral code of conduct. In reality though life and people’s life experiences cause different judgements and therefore people make different decisions. An example of this could be two patient’s needing a liver transplant, one a chronic alcoholic and another with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This could influence who was to be the first to receive the first available donated organ. However, under the rules of deontology, the first person on the organ transplant list should receive the organ, whereas in the NHS the donated organ is matched to the patient and which patient would benefit the most from the transplant. (British Liver Trust, 2018).

Postmodern ethics are a set of rules that take in to account people’s social surroundings, their environment, psychological state and shows respect and acceptance for a person’s political views, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity and culture. Postmodernism also questions facts and the theory is open to the idea that things can change. Postmodernism is not absolutist, there is no absolute truth. Although it is accepting of all beliefs, it also speaks out against ruling regimes some religions may have. Pre-modernism was based on God and religion and what was morally right or wrong, according to the bible. Modern was based on scientific facts that had been researched and is very biomedical model.

Principelism is based on ethics which include; autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. In health care, autonomy allows a patient to make a decision about their treatment and without a healthcare professional influencing their decision-making. Although the health care professional would still give information and advice. Under a the modern theory, which is biomedical model, the health care professional would be presented with a patients ailments and treat the illness, with a prescription of whichever medication may be needed to solve the ailment, the patient would either comply or not. Whereas, with autonomy an example could be a young person under the age of 16, a health care worker or doctor would have to safeguard the patient as well as respect their autonomy (Singleton and McLaren, 1995. Cited in Bartter). However, a parent or court can override the decision of any persons under 16 years of age, if deemed appropriate to do so. A general practitioner should provide the young patient with all the adequate information they need to make an informed choice regarding medical treatment. It is only when a the underage patient makes a decision that the general practitioner disagrees with that the patients autonomy will be over ridden (Care Quality Commission, 2017). Beneficence is the production of positivity and to be beneficial to others, it is often considered to be the moral compass that must upheld by health care workers (Jennie Naidoo and Jane Wills, Health Studies, 2015).

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In conclusion, the exploration of ethical theories, including consequentialism, deontology, postmodern ethics, and principlism, provides a comprehensive understanding of diverse perspectives in ethical decision-making. Consequentialism, represented by Utilitarianism and Hedonism, focuses on the outcomes of actions, emphasizing the greater good or the pursuit of pleasure. Deontology, rooted in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, posits that the morality of an act is determined by the moral intention of the agent, irrespective of the consequences. While deontology is criticized for its absolutist nature, it underscores the importance of universalizable ethical principles.

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Exploring the Ethical Theories. (2024, February 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-the-ethical-theories/
“Exploring the Ethical Theories.” GradesFixer, 13 Feb. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-the-ethical-theories/
Exploring the Ethical Theories. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-the-ethical-theories/> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2024].
Exploring the Ethical Theories [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Feb 13 [cited 2024 Jun 24]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-the-ethical-theories/
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