Modern moral thoughts are based on two theories, utilitarianism and deontology and they provide insight on how to approach questions arising from a given situation. Utilitarianism theory is based on the assumption that action is right if it brings greatest success or to the least possible balance of bad consequences (Cherry and Jacob 198). Basically, utilitarianism articulates that, any action taken should be at the interest of attaining its goal and purpose.
Deontology on the other hand is based on the rules and objectives that oblige them to do what is right. Cherry and Jacob (2005) describes this theory as ‘based on a sense of universal principle to consistently act one way’ (198). Sheng and Sheng (2004) differentiated these two theories by saying that ‘utilitarianism regards the good as right, whereas deontology regards justice as independent of the good’ (194). They assert that, in any action right should come first before “good and that good is not essentially the right” (194).
The rule that justice is more important than good is a big problem in medical services. Deontology emphasizes justice or right as absolute and therefore bars all the other best alternatives. Sheng and Sheng (2004) disagrees with this theory by saying that “it strictly permits no exceptions” (194). On the other hand the utilitarianism is not strict and gives a window of having other alternatives. Deontology theory constrains people and obliges them to observe all rules and regulation even when we are sure that in doing so will cause severe consequences. Similarly, Sheng and Sheng (2004) points out that, deontologist advocate “absolute principles” no matter the consequences that arises from abiding by them (194). Sheng and Sheng (2004) views that there are things that somebody must do ‘no matter what’ (194). In addition to this they also maintain that, its is not permissible for anyone to commit murder even if it is meant for good course and also it is not right for somebody to be compelled to communicate an opinion he does not embrace.
Not all deontologists conform absolutely to some principles articulated in this theory. Sheng and Sheng (2004), explains that deontologist disagree with the principle of absolutism and they gave an example of people like Kurt Baier and Bernard Gert whom they described as once said, “almost everyone is aware that there are circumstances when any rule can be broken without the person thereby doing anything immoral” (194).
In the scenario where I am in dilemma of choosing between saving the life of my patients’ and conforming to the rules and regulation of the medical practice, saving the life of the patients will be ethically moral. The theory of utilitarianism presents good in this situation than deontological theory. Both patients are suffering from cancer disease but one of them-teacher- is ailing from incurable cancer disease. This implies that the patient will die any way even if she is treated. However, since I know the experimental drugs which may certainly heal the disease of the patient if I administer the drug to the patient. Therefore it will be morally ethical and even good, if I prescribe this drug to the patient. Actually, the results of refusing to prescribe the experimental drug to the patient outweigh the consequences if I don’t.
Similarly, the second patient-actor- whose recovery from the cancer disease is adversely affected by his admission to the hospital, should be given the same drug. In this situation, administering the experimental drug to the patient alleviates him from his disease and therefore save him from the harm he would face if not treated. Although, prescribing the experimental drug to the patient infringes the rules and regulation of the hospital, it is the best and moral choice for such a scenario, as Sheng and Sheng (2004) said that there are things that somebody must do “no matter what” (194).
In conclusion, right and wrong in any health care decision, which health care professionals make in the course of their work, is entirely informed from the level of moral maturity they have attained. Cherry and Jacob (2005) asserts that to attain the high level of maturity in making decisions, the medical practitioners should undergo learning process that calls for strong loyalty to the task (199). They continue to say that, “the most useful tool for the morally mature professional nurse is a set of principles, standards, or truths on which to base ethical action” (199). The three fundamental principles are “autonomy”, ‘beneficence/nonmaleficence’, and ‘veracity’ (199).
Cherry Barbara & Jacob Susan. Contemporary nursing: issues, trends, & management. 3Edn. St. Louis: Elsevier Health Sciences, 2005.
Sheng C.L & Sheng Qinglai. A defense of utilitarianism. Lanham: University Press of America, 2004.