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The Role of Ethical Theories in Handling Practical Problems in Medical Ethics Essay

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2019

Introduction

There is variation between what feels right and what is right. This is the basic principle that brings about the considerations of ethics in whatever activity man engages in. We should not only do what feels right but also do the right thing as a way of upholding the ethical standards expected of us all.

There are quite a number of platforms where strict ethical considerations must be incorporated in order to come up with plausible results that will not have negative impacts on the conscience of both the decision makers and their subjects. It is important to note, therefore, that decisions instigated by ethics are not just what feel right to us as the decision makers but what are right for both us and whoever our decisions would have impacts on.

The significance of ethics has become apparent in the general practices that we engage ourselves in. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that ethics only apply in death and life matters in the professional lives of medical practitioners. Many have since thought that ethical considerations only apply in issues of abortion, euthanasia and contraception. On the contrary, ethical considerations must be incorporated in practically every medical consultation (Pence, 2007).

This is inconsiderate of whether medical examinations will follow or not. It must be noted that the dignity of patients has to be upheld in the process of either medical consultation or examination. Additionally, practitioners must understand the specific expectations needs of patient in relation to their medical complications as a mode of improving both the physical and mental outcomes of their interaction with patients.

This paper is a discussion of whether ethical theories have an imperative role to play in addressing practical complications in medical ethics or not.

It also includes a detailed discussion on how the general ethical considerations are supposed to be incorporated in medical practices in order to foster decisions that have the best impacts on both the decision makers and the parties on whom the decisions made would have impacts. In the discussion, I will agree with the fact that ethical theories are indeed important in addressing practical complications in medical ethics.

How are we supposed to make ethical decisions?

People have, in most occasions, made decisions on an intuitive basis. This means that they have made decisions that feel right to them. However, this approach of decision making has quite a number of setbacks. For instance, there is always no guaranteed success of this approach in cases where the decision makers had never met a similar complication before.

This is because the consequences of the decisions made remain uncertain until they are actually manifested. That notwithstanding, decisions instigated by mere intuitions might be difficult to defend if challenged. This is purely because someone’s feeling may contradict totally with the societal ethical standards (Palmer, 2008).

The different moral theories make one understand and evaluate the consequences of the decisions he or she is yet to make in relation to medical complications. I will base my arguments and rational decisions that need to be made concerning medical complications on basic ethical theories.

These theories include consequentialism, deontology and principlism. It is imperative that rational decisions are made in virtually all occasions of medical complications. These decisions need not only to conform to the feelings of the parties involved but also to the societal norms and their guiding principles.

The theory of concequentialism is based on the fact that the consequences of each course of action are the only things that matter as far as rational decision making is concerned (Pence, 2007). As a matter of fact, only positive consequences that guarantee the happiness of both parties involved in a medical complication are needed.

For this reason, we can note, therefore, that this theory focuses on decisions that will only yield positive outcomes; outcomes that will please everyone involved.

A good example of a medical complication that has sparked numerous ethical concerns is the intake of contraceptives. Even though this has been a topic of discussion for quite some time, it is important to take into consideration the fact that its utilization yields positive outcomes (Pence, 2007).

For instance, the use of contraceptives controls the size of a family hence making it relatively manageable. This applies especially to middle and low class families. This is a sign of happiness because all the members in the family become contented as opposed to when the family is larger but with the same income (Palmer, 2008).

However, not everyone agrees with the fact that the use of contraceptives brings happiness to both its users and prescribers. Others may argue that is it difficult to measure the degree of happiness in such scenarios. This is because someone may be offended by what makes another man happy.

That aside, the critics of this theory also argue that the expected good consequences of a decision may turn out to be unexpectedly bad. For example, the effects of contraceptives on the bodies of their consumers may be harmful hence surpassing the perceived positive consequences.

This, according to critics, explains the difficulty in banking so much on perceived positivity of decisions. Critics say that concequentialism may also compel people to resort to bizarre solutions with the aim of ensuring that all parties involved are happy (Pence, 2007).

Deontology, as opposed to concequentialism, states that what should be important in decisions are not their consequences but moral obligations that prompt us into making the decision. The decisions made in line with this theory take into account moral duties and not their consequences. There are basic moral duties that form the foundation of deontology.

They include the moral duties of not harming others, being kind to them, always telling the truth and keeping promises. Others include fair judgment and being thankful for assistance offered. In the case of a hospital with three patients; two of whom need heart and liver transplant respectively and the last one healing from an attempted suicide, one would argue that the patient who attempted to take away his life should be killed and his organs given to the other patients who want to live.

It is not morally upright to kill a person even if that will save the lives of two or more people. This illustrates the significance of ignoring the consequences of a decision and focusing on its moral acceptance. The patients in this case should be left to heal through means that will not violate the societal ethical value of not inflicting harm to others.

In the event that the two patients that need organ transplant are unable to find compatible donors, the other patient who wants to die must not be denied the right to live if he still has the chance to, all in the name of yielding positive results without taking into account the moral consequences (Pence, 2007).

A critic will argue that no moral duty should be considered as absolute. They say that the moral duties, however, should be followed to their latter until a pressing one surfaces. This implies that these duties only apply in other occasions but are overlooked when better options come along inconsiderate of the grave consequences of the other better options.

Others have also argued that the moral duties are only valid to those that believe in them. Just like religious people depend on their faith for some answers and non-religious people do not believe in their faith, other people too do not follow moral duties simply because they do not believe in them. They say that the origin of the laws encrypted in the moral duties is uncertain (Palmer, 2008).

The theory of principlism amalgamates just actions with the principle that preaches no harm to others. It also fosters autonomy and the act of doing well to others. Philosophers have since argued that these four principles can play an imperative role in tackling virtually any ethical problem that may arise.

For this reason, this theory can as well be applied in handling medical ethics and their related complications. Just like other theories, this too has faced criticism. People have it pinned down by disapproving of its validity as an ethical theory. They say it is a mere amalgamation of principles that are already incorporated in other theories (Palmer, 2008).

Conclusion

In conclusion, therefore, ethical theories play an imperative role in addressing practical problems in medical ethics. They assist in the making of rational decisions that are not only aimed at yielding positive results but also ensuring that all the parties involved are satisfied. Medical practitioners should apply ethical theories in every step of their decision making process in order to shun cases of incomprehensible medical decisions (Pence, 2007).

References

Palmer, M. F. (2008). Moral problems in medicine: A practical coursebook. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press.

Pence, G. E. (2007). Classic cases in medical ethics: Accounts of cases that have shaped medical ethics, with philosophical, legal, and historical backgrounds. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

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IvyPanda. "The Role of Ethical Theories in Handling Practical Problems in Medical Ethics." April 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-ethical-theories-in-handling-practical-problems-in-medical-ethics/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Role of Ethical Theories in Handling Practical Problems in Medical Ethics." April 11, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-ethical-theories-in-handling-practical-problems-in-medical-ethics/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Role of Ethical Theories in Handling Practical Problems in Medical Ethics'. 11 April.

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