Deontology, Act Utilitarianism And The Pursuit Of Autonomy - Mcmaster University, Philosophy - Case Study

1456 words - 6 pages

Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
Mina Pichtikova
McMaster University
Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
Olive is a healthy 12-year-old girl, caught in the midst of a complicated ethical dilemma.
Her 10-year-old sister Nancy is at the end-stage of renal failure and requires a kidney transplant.
Upon conducting medical tests, it is determined that Olive is a donor match for her sister.
Initially, Olive is unwilling to donate her kidney. However, Olive’s parents Sylvia and Jack use
emotional pressure to eventually coerce her into agreeing to be a donor. Was the behaviour of the
parent’s ethical? Situations involving minors as live kidney donors for siblings are ethically
complex, as the donor receives no therapeutic value from the procedure and the term minor
encompasses a wide range of maturity levels (Kim, 2003). Deontology and Act Utilitarianism
ethical theories can be used to tackle this complicated dilemma, however, they come to different
conclusions. Deontology argues that the parents’ actions of coercing Olive into donating her
kidney were unethical, whereas Act Utilitarianism argues that they were ethical. However, Act
Utilitarianism overlooks one incredibly important ethical consideration: Olive’s autonomy.
Deontology is a non-consequentialist theory of obligation proposed by Immanuel Kant.
He proposes that what determines whether an action is moral or immoral is not the consequence
it leads to, but rather whether the general principle, or maxim, the action itself conforms to is
“right” or “wrong” under his formulations. The maxim is composed of the action one wishes to
undertake, followed by the reason to do so (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). In this case, the
maxim would be “I may coerce someone to help someone else”. Kant provides three
formulations necessary to determine whether or not it is moral for Sylvia and Jack to act on their
personal maxim. In order to be moral, an action must pass all three formulations. The first
formulation, logical consistency, requires that one universalizes their personal maxim and then
Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
assess it (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). Upon acting on a personal maxim, Sylvia and Jack
theoretically agree that it should be a universal law, and thus generalizable to all other
individuals across similar situations. According to Kant, immoral maxims can never pass the first
formulation, because if they were to become universal laws they would lead to a contradiction
(Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). The maxim, in this case, leads to a contradiction because, in a
world where everyone coerced one another, free will would cease to exist. The second of Kant’s
formulations states that you must never treat people as a mere means, but always at the same
time as your ends (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). Sylvia and Jack’s actions also fail the second
formulation, as they are using Olive as a means by coercing her into donating her kidney in order
to save their daughter Nancy. Furthermore, Kant emphasizes that treating an individual as an
ends means to treat them as a rational being. Sylvia and Jack’s actions also violated this by not
allowing Olive to make her own life choices and by not being willing to exchange and respond to
Olive’s reasons (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). The final formulation requires that we always
respect the freedom and autonomy of rational agents, and allow them to act freely on their own
reasons. Sylvia and Jack’s actions also do not pass the third formulation, as they prevent Olive
from effectively exercising her reason by guilting, shaming, and coercing her into donating her
kidney (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). In this case, all three of the formulations demonstrate that
Sylvia and Jack’s moral obligation is to refrain from acting on their personal maxim “I may
coerce someone to help someone else”, thus rendering their actions unethical. However, it is
important to note that deontology only applies to rational beings. Thus, I argue that at 12 years
old, Olive is a rational being. I do so on the bases that Piaget suggests that by 12 years old,
children are able to think logically in abstract ways (Piaget, 1972). In addition, medical literature
Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
provides empirical evidence that children approaching adolescence are already mature enough to
make decisions about their medical care (Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs,1994).
Act Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory proposed by John Mill, which argues that
an action is morally correct only if it produces the greatest possible degree of happiness (utility),
or the least degree of unhappiness (disutility) for all those affected by the action. In order to asses
this case through an Act Utilitarianism framework, we must first calculate the utilities and
disutilities for each possible action, for all those affected by the decision of the parents (Boetzkes
& Waluchow, 2000). All those affected are considered the “stakeholders”, they include Sylvia
and Jack, Olive, Nancy, non-immediate family members, and other individuals who require
medical services. If the parents coerced Olive into donating her kidney she would experience
short and long-term disutility, as she would undergo an invasive procedure and potentially suffer
psychological and physical side effects. However, all other stakeholders would experience
long-term utility, as Nancy would get to live, the parents would save their daughter,
non-immediate family members would not endure the burden of death, and valuable medical
resources such as energy, money, equipment, and time would become available to other patients
in need. In contrast, if the parents were to not coerce Olive into donating the kidney, Olive would
be the only one experiencing utility, whereas everyone else would experience disutility.
Therefore, we conclude that utility would be maximized for all stakeholders, on balance, if the
parents coerced Olive into donating her kidney. Thus, according to Act Utilitarianism, Sylvia and
Jack’s actions are ethical.
Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
Deontology and Act Utilitarianism leave us at a crossroad of contradiction—were the
actions of the parents ethical or unethical? Deontology claims that the actions of the parents were
unethical as they violated the three formulations, whereas Act Utilitarianism claims that they are
ethical as they yield the greatest degree of utility for all those involved. I argue that Deontology
arrives at the correct conclusion, as it manages to consider Olive’s autonomy, something that is
neglected by the Act Utilitarian theory (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). Act Utilitarianism places
emphasis in maximizing the good consequences rather than maintaining the autonomy of the
individuals involved, thus only valuing autonomy as a means to maximizing happiness rather
than a fundamental principle of medical ethics (Murgic, Hébert, Sovic & Pavlekovic, 2015).
Thus, cases such as Olive’s demonstrate that in its pursuit of maximum utility, Act Utilitarianism
takes rights, such as the right to bodily autonomy, too lightly. Philosophers have even gone as far
as to say that autonomy has been fatally wounded by utilitarianism (Smart & Williams, 1973). In
contrast, Deontology is committed to maintaining the autonomy of individuals when considering
the morality of an action. It highlights the importance of treating others as rational beings who
have the right to exercise their autonomy (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000). Furthermore,
Deontology even recognizes that if one does anything that effectively stops a person from
exercising their reason, such as shaming, manipulation or coercion they are essentially
compromising the individual’s autonomy (Boetzkes & Waluchow, 2000) and thus acting
unethically. Thus, I assert that Deontology arrives at the correct conclusion as it considers
Olive’s autonomy and maintains her fundamental medical rights.
Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
Ultimately, both Act Utilitarian and Deontological ethics are relevant in medical practice
and must be considered through the lens of the context. Some ethical dilemmas have simple
solutions, whereas others such as Olive’s, serve to remind us of both the complexity and
necessity of medical ethics. Overall, such case studies demonstrate that patients’ lives depend not
only on the scientific understanding of their doctor, but also largely on the ethics which govern
Deontology, Act Utilitarianism and Pursuit of Autonomy
Boetzkes, E., & Waluchow, W. J. (Eds.). (2000). ​Readings in health care ethics ​. Broadview
Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs AMA. (1994). The use of minors as organ and tissue
donors. ​Code Med Ethics Rep ​, ​5​, 229-242.
Kim, C. (2003). Children as Live Kidney Donors for Siblings. ​AMA Journal of Ethics ​, ​5​(8),
Murgic, L., Hébert, P. C., Sovic, S., & Pavlekovic, G. (2015). Paternalism and autonomy: views
of patients and providers in a transitional (post-communist) country. ​BMC medical ethics ​,
16​(1), 65.
Piaget, J. (1972). Intellectual evolution from adolescence to adulthood. ​Human development​,
15​(1), 1-12.
Smart, J. J. C., & Williams, B. (1973). ​Utilitarianism: For and against​. Cambridge University

More like Deontology, Act Utilitarianism And The Pursuit Of Autonomy - Mcmaster University, Philosophy - Case Study

Utilitarianism And John Stuart Mill - Hofstra University; Philosophy 14 - Essay

656 words - 3 pages ... Nora Darragh Utilitarianism Originally established by Jeremy Bentham, the functional belief of Benthamism was well altered by his successor John Stuart Mill, who popularized it as Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism and its main concept is that whether actions are morally right or the opposite. Mill’s doctrine of utility explains that in order to obtain happiness, there must be a pursuit in gaining happiness and the ...

Ethical Theories - Utilitarianism, Deontology Ethics And Virtue Ethics - Ethics - Essay

3689 words - 15 pages ... . In addition, throughout this essay I will argue, despite Deontology Ethics and Utilitarianism offering substantial approaches to the way one should live and act, I believe Virtue Ethics is the most coherent and rational of the three ethical theories as we are all innate virtue ethicists, because it does not reject moral integrity, nor does Virtue Ethics reject the influence of emotions when articulating moral decisions. Utilitarianism is an ...

Utilitarianism And Capital Punishment - Study Of Religion - Essay

1222 words - 5 pages ... can be used to critique the theory. Christians are not solely concerned with whether or not the utilitarian philosophy is logically flawed. Essentially, utilitarianism expresses that man is primarily concerned with the desire for pleasure, or goodness. Yet, this is much more reflective of the Bible’s definition of sin, than it is of the definition of genuine goodness or man’s true purpose (Toovey, 2010). The impact of both utilitarianism and the ...

Nicomachean Ethics And Utilitarianism - Philosophy - Research Paper

1062 words - 5 pages ... about themselves. The simple act of making someone feel better creates a thrill that ultimately inspired me to pursue Biology, in hopes of someday becoming a doctor. Both Aristotle and John Stuart Mill embody this reasoning. Aristotle says to have good habits and to take action in them. John Stuart Mill also focuses on happiness and habits, but most importantly the action of spreading happiness. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle is seen ...

Case Study: Issue: Wagner Act, Wrongful Termination Act

368 words - 2 pages ... Case StudyManagement of ABC, Inc. has noticed signs of low productivity on its assembly line and suspects an alarming incidence of after work hours drug abuse among its employees which may be contributing to lower productivity and low morale. Management also suspects that the most drug usage is occuring among employees on the assembly line who have been actively engaged in seeking to unionize the company.In view of the foregoing circumstances ...

Organizational Behavior Is The Study And Application Of Knowledge About How People, Individuals, And Groups Act In Organizations

437 words - 2 pages ... Organizational behavior is the study and application of knowledge about how people, individuals, and groups act in organizations. The purpose of such study is to help internal incorporation, bring employees from all levels of the company closer together, and boost their performance. Employees are what make up an organization or a company. A company must run successfully; therefore, the employees have to work well together. People work ...

Dell Inc: Improving The Flexibility Of The Desktop PC Supply Chain - Liberty University BUSI740 - Case Study

1584 words - 7 pages ... 1 Running head: DELL INC. 2 DELL INC. Dell Inc: Improving the Flexibility of the Desktop PC Supply Chain Case Study Strategic Supply Chain Management Liberty University BUSI 740 – B02 January 20, 2019 Case Study 1 Dell Inc. Dell Inc. was founded by Michael Dell in 1984 based on the business model of eliminating retailers from the sales channel and selling directly to customers. This business model carried the company into the ranks of the top ...

Frankenstein And The Act Of Paying God

831 words - 4 pages ... . Throughout the novel a common theme of self-centeredness continually arises. Victor becomes self-centered, thinking he is supreme in the sciences, and that he knows the secrets of life. These thoughts cause terrible events to happen to him and his family. Victor's act of playing the role of god brings him a horrible creation, death of the innocent, and madness of the mind. The first time Victor plays the role of god was the creation of his ...

A Nasty Ending For Nasty Gal Case Study - University Of Michigan - Case Study

931 words - 4 pages ... I am going to discuss if Nasty Gal could avoid bankruptcy lastly, I will draw my own conclusion. ! 3 A Nasty Ending for Nasty Gal Response for case study questions there is no doubt that social media has help serval business growing up and contributed to its business models, basically ,The idea of Nasty Gal generated from an online space , Amouruso the owner of the company has been a heavy user of social tools to promote her business , she ...

BBA102 Report Case Study Business Of Management - BBA Macquarie University - Case Study

1537 words - 7 pages ... ………………………..6 Conclusion………………………………………………………………7 Reference List……………………………………………………….….7 INTRODUCTION The success to creating a positive and dynamic environment begins firstly with understanding groups and managing teams. Sir Richard Branson: managing groups and team objectives explore the characteristics of group teams and behaviours, functions and roles of managers and approaches to management. Discussed within this case study involves the argument ...

The Nature Of Business - Case Study

3679 words - 15 pages ... The Nature of Business (chapter 1 - 4) CASE STUDY RESEARCH: Nature of Business (20 marks) - A fictitious scenario about a business will be provided and students will be required to write a business report and answering three questions based on the scenario - The focus of your research needs to be on the classification of business (legal structure), the influences in the business environment (external and internal) and the business life ...

Economics: Opportunity Cost And Choices - Auckland University - Case Study

1202 words - 5 pages ... analysis relates the cost of partaking in an activity to the benefit that will be enjoyed by the individual. Economists assume that individuals will select the choice that guarantees the best outcome and requires a minimum cost. Such a notion is very important when developing the sad theory because it creates uniformity amongst all factors. When applying these models, people need to factor these assumptions because the theoretical expectations may ...

Hate Speech In Public Areas And Universities - The University Of New Mexico, Philosophy 156 - Essay

1710 words - 7 pages ... The University of New Mexico Hate Speech in Public Areas and Universities Joseph A. Armijo Philosophy 156-005 Mr. James Bodington 5/06/17 Word Count: 1,712 The freedom of speech is protected under the First Amendment of our constitution. Through this right, great strides or acts have been made that are revered in American history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to take steps in abolishing segregation through his powerful and effective ...

Case Study For Zappos Case Study Submitted To Fanshawe College For The Month Of September 2018 - Fanshawe - Case Study

815 words - 4 pages ... Zappos Case Study Principles of Operations Management MGMT-6092-(01-02)-18F By Dhruthirmayee Inampudi (0855281) · Draw and describe the customer benefit package that Zappos provides. Goods? Services? Digital Content? Who manufactures the physical goods? Who is responsible for the quality and delivery of the physical goods? Answer: One of the company’s core values is that “Deliver WOW through service”. They offer 365 days free shipping in both ...

Case Study Of Comsyst Technologies - Management, People And Teams - Case Study

3879 words - 16 pages ... challenges. With the help of our talented members, put a Case Study together that guarantee positive changes within the company through utilizing techniques to attract and retain key talent of the company, creating a high-performance team and developing the capability of the company staff. CST is a multinational communication software and systems developer company serving the defense and emergency services industry. However, the worldwide company ...