We will write a custom Article on Analysis of News Article Using Act Utilitarianism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Human beings live by a set of rules and standards which dictate how people act or relate in given situations. These well established norms are known as ethics and they are important for harmonious coexistence in the society. By definition, ethics can be termed as a system of moral principles by which social conduct is judged as either “right” or “wrong” (Chryssides & Kaler 1993).
Even so, what is deemed right in a given situation might vary depending on the point of view from which one is viewing the issue. For this reason, application of ethical theories is important to resolve issues. Ethical theories are the criteria that we use to make judgment as to the fairness or unfairness of actions undertaken regarding problems (Johnston 2009, p.90).
These theories provide the basis on which an ethical decision can be reached in a situation (White 2008). In this paper, I shall attempt to resolve an ethical issue that appeared in the news by utilizing two ethical theories: Utilitarianism and Kant’s categorical imperative theory. A conclusion shall be reached concerning the ethical issue by performing a thorough analysis using the two theories.
Ethical Issue in Question
The ethical issue in question pertains to the sale of human organs. In the article “Sale of human organs should be legalized, say surgeons” appearing in The Independent, Smith (2011) reports that some surgeons in London are calling on the government to create a legalized market for organs.
The surgeons state that the lives of thousands of people are at stake since they may die if a suitable donor is not found in good time. To reinforce the claim, it is revealed that 8000 people are on the transplant waiting list and of this; over 500 will die annually due to lack of organs (2011). These deaths are seen as unnecessary since the technology necessary to treat the patients is there and all that is missing is organs which would be easily obtainable if a legal market existed.
An important issue raised in the article is that due to desperations, there has been a rise in “transplant tourism” which involves patients traveling to countries where organs are more readily available (Smith 2011). In most of these countries, the organs are obtained through the black market. Lack of a legal market is therefore blamed for benefiting the black market which is mostly run by criminals. In addition to this, transplant tourism results in shoddy operations which necessitate further medical attention for the patient.
Facts Relevant to the Analysis
There are a number of factors which have ethical implications. The first one is whether it is justifiable to allow people to continue to suffer and die, as a result of the shortage of organs for transplantation currently experienced in Britain and many other countries all over the world, while there is a feasible solution to this problem.
The second issue under consideration is the consequence of legalizing sale of organs to the population. A legal market in organs will have an impact on the population and in particular, the attraction of a small fortune for the sale of a body organ will be most appealing to the poor. It can therefore be expected that they would sell parts of their body with little regard of the health implication of the procedure to them.
The third issue raised is that a lack of a legal market has led to the growth of the black market. Legalizing organ sales is seen as the only way that black markets which are characterized by extortion and crime can be eliminated. Gray (2001) reveals that as the transplant organs have become more desperately needed, there have been reports of mass murders to provide the black market with organs.
Analyze the issue using Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism dictates that the collective welfare of the people overrides the individual’s right and as such, the theory advocates the maximization of happiness for the greatest number of people (Thiroux & Krasemann 2008). Using this theory, the net benefit is calculated and the net consequences are evaluated and from this, a decision is reached as to which acts have the most “productive” result.
- Positive Consequences
The primary objective of all organs transplantation endeavors is to restore health or extend the life of an ailing patient (Matas 2008). However, there is a great scarcity in the number of organs available which means that most patients lack access to the organs in spite of their dire health conditions. The lack of a legal regulated market for body organs has resulted in the increased suffering of patients as well as the rise in their hospital bills.
Mclaughlin, Prusher and Downie (2009) reveal that as a result of organs shortage, many patients are forced to bear with painful medical procedures such as dialysis as they await organs for an indefinite period of time. Some of this patients end up dying due to complete failure of their organs while others have astronomical medical bills. It is therefore in the best interest of the society to legalize organ sale so as to save the patients from untimely deaths and high medical bills.
As has been noted, the black market continues to thrive due to the lack of a legal forum for buying and selling organs. The black market benefits only a few people and does not contribute to the wellbeing of the society (Radcliffe 2003). The only means through which the black market would be rendered irrelevant is by creating a legitimate market for human organs.
Creating a legitimate framework for commerce in organs would lead to a condition whereby the donors would be paid their dues. The cost of the organ to the patient would also be reduced significantly since the inflated cost that is currently experienced is as a direct result of the monopoly that the black market traders hold in the human organ trade.
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
- Negative Consequences
Legalization of organ trade would invariably lead to the poor being preyed upon by the rich in society. This is a well founded fear considering the fact that majority of the buyers in black markets are rich people. Mclaughlin, Prusher and Downie (2004) document how poverty combined with the allure of easy money make a poor man from Brazil sell one of his kidneys to a rich Israeli.
Despite arguments that the selling of body parts leads to the donors faring better as a result of the money earned, research demonstrates that the sale of organs does not alleviate poverty as proponents for the same insinuate. A study by Goyal et at (as cited by Rothman (2002)) shows that in India “87% of those for sold a kidney reported deterioration in their health status and of those who sold a kidney to pay off debts., 74% still had debts 6 years later.
Application of Kant’s Categorical Imperative
Kant’s theory of categorical imperative place emphasis on the assumed duty. This implies that duty is the basis of all moral actions regardless of the consequences (Thiroux & Krasemann 2008). This theory places greater weight on the rules rather than consequences to justify an action.
Kant’s Categorical Imperative asserts that the rightness of an action depends on “whether it accords with a rule irrespective of its consequences” (Burch 2009, p.50).The rational from Kent was that people cannot be expected to reason rationally at all times. However, the rules can be expected to remain constant and by following them the society can avoid falling into disarray.
The first issue is whether it is acceptable for people to suffer and die due to an unavailability of organs. By utilizing Kant’s Categorical Imperative, a possible maxim could be that “whenever somebody is on the waiting list in need of an organ, they should be let to suffer until a willing donor comes about.” This maxim if applied universally would result in a lot of unnecessary suffering for human beings. By applying this ethical theory, it is not right to leave people to suffer when something can be done about it.
The second issue is whether it is right to allow people (especially the poor) to benefit from trade in their organs while this may have negative impacts on their health. Kent’s theory does not consider the ends but only the means. By allowing trade in their organs, people would be rewarded for giving away parts of their bodies.
From this, the maxim “everyone deserves to be rewarded for selling property that belongs to them”. This maxim can become a universal law since all societies work with the understanding that commerce is necessary and profits are desirable.
The other issue in consideration is that of the black market which is supposedly benefiting due to the lack of a legal market for body organs. By applying Kent’s theory, trade in the black market is unacceptable. If black market operations were right, then the maxim “everyone should obtain their goods though the black market” would follow. Such a maxim cannot be made a universal law since if everyone engaged in black market trade, the world economy as we know it would collapse.
Discussion and Conclusion
There are two alternatives that can be reached in this issue: the sale of human organs can be made legal or the sale can remain illegal. Both ethical theories concede that it is wrong to let people suffer in hospitals while there is a solution available in the form of organ sale legalization. The theories also concur that the black market is evil and should not be allowed to exist.
The only means through which this can be achieved is by making organ sales legal. Even so, the two theories differ on the issue of allowing poor people to sell their organs. While Utilitarianism advances that it is wrong to let the poor sell their organs regardless of the side effects on their health, Kant’s theory proposes that commerce is acceptable and people have the right to profit from their body parts. In overall, both theories favor the legalizing of organ sale.
I agree with the conclusion reached that the sale of body organs should be made legal. This conclusion is in line with my conscience on the issue that when it is possible to alleviate suffering, the same should be done. From the discussions presented in this paper, it is clear that a legal market would benefit not only the patient but also the donor who would receive monetary benefits. From this paper, it is clear that ethical theories are important in solving real life issues since they act as the guidelines from which sound decisions are made.
Burch, A.H. 2009, What’s Right? : Social ethics choices and applications, AuthorHouse.
Chryssides, DG & Kaler, HJ 1993, An introduction to business ethics, Cengage Learning EMEA.
Gray, HC 2001, Cyborg citizen: politics in the posthuman age, NY: Routledge.
Johnston, G 2009, An Introduction to Ethics, for Training Colleges, BiblioBazaar, LLC.
Matas, JA 2008, “Should we pay donors to increase the supply of organs for transplantation? Yes”, Journal of Medical Ethics; 35:558.
Mclaughlin, A Prusher, I & Downie, A, What is a Kidney Worth? Web.
Radcliffe, R 2003, “Commentary: An ethical market in human organs”, Journal of Medical Ethics.
Rothman, DJ 2002, Ethical and social consequences of selling a kidney, The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Smith, L 2010, “Sale of human organs should be legalized, say surgeons”, The Independent. Web.
Thiroux, JP & Krasemann, KW 2008, Ethics: Theory and Practice (10th Edition), Prentice Hall.
White, J E 2008, Contemporary Moral Problems, Cengage Learning.