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PHI FPX 2000 Assessment 1 Applying Ethical Theory:

PHI FPX 2000 Assessment 1 Applying Ethical Theory

Ethical Issue Overview

Ethical theories give a framework for critical thinking and effective decision-making. In the medical industry, circumstances involving an individual’s quality of life can be quite complicated. Consider the story of Joellen, a 53-year-old woman, to better appreciate how ethics might be applied in challenging situations. Joellen is a patient who apparently tried suicide by overdosing on prescription medicine and alcohol and telling medical professionals she wasn’t meant to be in the hospital.

Her condition deteriorated swiftly, and she became unresponsive. Her son provided medical personnel with a written advanced directive declaring Joellen’s desire not to be placed on life support. The ethical dilemma in this case is whether medical personnel should keep her on life support and attempt to save her life or respect her desires. By applying normative ethical theories to Joellen’s situation and weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each, the optimum option entails combining many ethical approaches.

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Application of Normative Ethics to Medical Scenario

Normative ethics discusses how an individual’s activities and character affect moral decision-making. Normative ethics encompasses three fields of thought: deontology, consequentialism, and virtue ethics. Deontology, often known as responsibility ethics, is an ethical system that emphasizes moral deeds above character. One fundamental principle in duty ethics that is relevant to Joellen’s situation comes from German philosopher Samuel Pufendorf, who maintained that morality consists of responsibilities to others (Mahawar, 2021).

Individuals have a duty to others to avoid wronging them and to uphold their promises. According to deontological philosophy, medical personnel must behave in conformity with the law. Given that Joellen has a written advance directive—essentially a legally enforceable promise—stating that she does not want to be placed on life support, medical professionals must fulfill her desire. This form of thinking is opposed to consequentialism, which is concerned with evaluating the results of an action rather than the action itself (Gonzalo Herranz., 2021).

According to consequentialist views, morality is determined by whether the consequences of an action are more or less positive, with the more favorable outcome deemed the morally superior option (Andersen, 2022). When taking a utilitarian approach to Joellen’s case, there are various elements to consider when calculating the effects of each action. If Joellen was suffering, would her suicide bring her peace? Joellen’s suicide attempt may be regarded ethically right based on ethical egoism, in which her actions will benefit herself more than everyone else.

Joellen’s intentions are to not be placed on life support, hence this would most certainly be regarded as a bad outcome for her. Another factor is Joellen’s family’s wishes for her life. Finally, consider health insurance. Who would be financially responsible for the life-support, and is this a desirable or undesirable outcome? Although the solutions are unclear, they do encourage critical thought.

The final category of normative ethics is virtue theories or virtue ethics. Virtue ethics focuses on character development, including kindness, wisdom, bravery, temperance, justice, fortitude, generosity, and self-respect (Athanassoulis, 2024). Healthcare workers are often interested with increasing their patients’ well-being and must strike a delicate balance between the patient’s wishes and their own professional knowledge (Beaumont, 2024). Although qualities are frequently subjective, a few that are relevant to Joellen’s situation include compassion and trust. The medical team should be emotionally attentive and sympathetic to Joellen’s tragedy. She tried suicide, implying she was suffering. Joellen’s son presented an advance directive to the hospital, indicating a desire to honor his mother’s wishes. In this scenario, faithfulness is a significant virtue.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Duty Ethics

One of the advantages of obligation ethics is that it promotes equality in the consideration of everyone’s rights, which leads to human rights. Another advantage is that responsibility ethics give a degree of assurance for decision-making (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2024). The consequences are not always clear, but the deed itself is. For example, an advance directive is a legal “rule” that provides stakeholders with extremely specific instructions on what is expected and what should be done.

If medical personnel obey this guideline, they are not responsible or accountable for any repercussions that may arise. The flaw in adopting this concept is that occasionally doing what is ethically right (such as stating the truth) might have negative repercussions, resulting in an ethical dilemma. For example, there is debate about how to interpret the work of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who claimed that speaking falsehood is ethically wrong even if it saves a friend’s life (Dimmock & Fisher, 2019). Having a duty to do the right thing creates conflict in decision-making when doing the right thing has a negative outcome.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Consequentialism

Consequentialism, unlike responsibility ethics, has the benefit of taking into account what happens after a moral action. In the case above, a consequentialist would agree that lying is unethical, but saving a person’s life is more valuable and ethically justified. Consequentialism evaluates the implications of an action using utilitarianism and hedonism (Andersen, 2022). According to hedonism, a result is desirable if it prevents suffering or produces pleasure. In contrast, utilitarianism holds that the outcome that benefits the largest number of people is the best option. 

One of the fundamental disadvantages of a consequentialist approach is that the future is unpredictable, therefore making a decision based on prospective consequences has a margin for error (BBC, 2020). Consider if Joellen did not have an advance directive and medical experts believed she might have a better life, so they put her on life support. What if she was able to come off life support after many months but was miserable, in debt, and unhappy, so she was kept on life support? Would the medical staff’s actions be based on what really occurred or their intentions? Decisions might become fuzzy. Duty ethics considers an individual’s intentions, but consequentialism does not, which might be a negative.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics emphasizes individual character over behaviors. The notion implies that if a person has excellent character, he or she will make sound judgments (calcoast.edu, 2020). Focusing on an individual’s character has the advantage of making activities more morally fair while also improving the individual’s well-being. Another advantage of virtue ethics is the flexibility in evaluating issues by examining what a good person would do (Athanassoulis, 2024).

There are several downsides to virtue ethics. One is the intrinsic essence of subjectivity. In Joellen’s scenario, each stakeholder has a unique set of character qualities that impact decision-making. Another problem of virtue ethics is that it relies on self-awareness. Making moral decisions takes not just practice, but also self-awareness of one’s own strengths and flaws. Without self-awareness, an individual may not know which abilities to develop or reinforce.

Conclusion

In conclusion, responsibility ethics, consequentialism, and virtue ethics all have shortcomings. As a result, it is more practical to mix all three and select which features are more relevant based on the values of a certain environment. In the instance of Joellen, medical personnel must evaluate a professional code of ethics, the law, their patient’s ethics, and personal ethics. Given the many factors to consider while making ethical decisions, there can never be a single correct solution. Instead, the medical team working with Joellen can apply a prioritized set of ethics to guide them to a suitable solution in the current scenario.

References

Andersen, M. M. (2022). Consequentialism. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics10.1093(9780190228637.001.0001). https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.2019

Athanassoulis, N. (2024). Virtue Ethics. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://iep.utm.edu/virtue/

BBC. (2020). Consequentialism. Www.bbc.co.uk. https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/consequentialism_1.shtml

Beaumont, M. (2024, January 15). Healthcare Ethics – Balancing Autonomy and Beneficence. Online Learning College. https://online-learning-college.com/knowledge-hub/care/healthcare-ethics-balancing-autonomy-beneficence/

calcoast.edu. (2020). What Does Strong Character Mean? Calcoast.edu. https://www.calcoast.edu/news/what-does-strong-character-mean-helping-your-child-become-responsible-citizen

Dimmock, M., & Fisher, A. (2019, September 18). 2: Kantian ethics. Humanities LibreTexts. https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Philosophy/Ethics_(Fisher_and_Dimmock)/2%3A_Kantian_ethics

Equality and Human Rights Commission. (2024). Human Rights in Action Case studies from Regulators, Inspectorates and Ombudsmen Equality and Human Rights Commission www.equalityhumanrights.com Human Rights in Actionhttps://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/human_rights_in_action_rio_case_studies_1.pdf

Gonzalo Herranz. (2021). The Code of Medical Ethics and Deontology. Bioethics Material. Unit of Humanities and Medical Ethics – Unit of Humanities and Medical Ethics. Humanities and Medical Ethics Unit. https://en.unav.edu/web/humanities-and-medical-ethics-unit/bioethics-material/el-codigo-de-etica-y-deontologia-medica

Mahawar, S. (2021, August 14). Pufendorf’s view on the law of sociality. IPleaders. https://blog.ipleaders.in/pufendorfs-view-law-sociality/

PHI FPX 2000 Assessment 1 Applying Ethical Theory

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