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Concordia University
PHIL 235

Study Notes Chapter 1Ethical TheoriesThe most common kinds of objectivist ethical theories are1 Teleological or Consequentialistic TheoriesThe most common of these in our society is utilitarianismHistorically John Stuart Mill is its bestknown proponentIt is frequently used by health care administratorsUtilitarianism takes as its basic principle the socalled principle of utilityOne should always act in such a way as to bring about the greatest good and the least harm for the greatest number of peopleThe principle of utility leaves undefined the nature of the good that one is supposed to aim at and the nature of the harm that is to be avoidedThere are several different versions of utilitarianismHedonistic utilitarianism defines the good in terms of material wellbeing or pleasureEudaemonistic utilitarianism identifies the good as happinessIdeal utilitarianism says the good consists in the attainment of certain idealsMixed utilitarianism claims the good is a combination of several of the abovementioned goodsThere are different views of how we are supposed to identify the goodSome claim that a special sort of insight or intuition is involvedOthers focus on the nature of human beings and argue that the good can be derived from human nature itselfOthers say that good can only be identified by looking at what society prefersThere are also differences in how the test of utility is to be appliedAct utilitarianism proceeds on a casebycase basisIt evaluates each situation on its own terms without reference to universal rules or guidelinesRule utilitarianism maintains that utility is not something that can be calculated for individual acts but only for general rules of conduct2 Deontological EthicsDeontological theories are not concerned with outcomes but with duties and rightsThere are two major typesMonistic approaches say that there is only one basic principle from which all judgments and rules of right and wrong must ultimately be derivedPluralistic approaches say that there are several basic principlesImmanuel Kants position is probably the bestknown and most influential monistic deontological ethicsKant called his basic principle the categorical imperativeThe categorical imperative goes like this Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal lawA second version which Kant called the practical imperative stated Act so that you treat humanity whether in your own person or in that of another always as an end and never as a means onlyUnlike the Kantian monistic approach pluralistic deontological ethics maintains that there are several basic or fundamental principles that are irreducible to each other and that have to be balanced against each other in a given situationAmong pluralistic deontologists the following principles have found general acceptance1Principle of Autonomy and Respect for Persons2Principle of Impossibility3Principle of Fidelity or Best Action4Principle of Equality and Justice5Principle of Beneficence6Principle of NonMalfeasanceSome deontologists have suggested that ethical principles should be understood as holding only prima facieThat is they should be understood merely as approximations that serve as guidesThis approach has become widely acceptedSee page 8 in the textbook3 Feminist EthicsIt has been described as the ethics of caring and responseHistorically its focus was the moral experience of women in what it describes as a maledominated and maleoriented worldFeminist ethics maintains that ethical issues and dilemmas should be resolved by looking at the particulars of each situation and by determining how the responsibilities of various actors arise from the relationships in which they are embeddedNel Noddings and Carol Gilligan are particularly noteworthy advocates of feminist ethicsPhilosopher Annette Baier argues that traditional ethical theories are not so much wrong but that they capture only certain aspects of moral realityAccording to feminist ethicists female health care needs have essentially remained underservicedA feminist ethical approach when applied to biomedical issues maintains that one should arrive at a conclusion based on the social situation of the women and the reality of their bodily and social experience in a maledominated and maleoriented societyMost feminist writings focus on the experiences of womenA great deal of feminist biomedical ethics has been concerned with matters that centre on the reproductive capacities of women4 Virtue EthicsVirtue ethics is based on the concept of virtueVirtue ethics shares several important traits with other ethical approachesLike feminist ethics it rejects the position that ethics is fundamentally concerned with duties and rightsIt argues that the fundamental concern of ethics is the development of a virtuous characterIt is similar to deontological ethics in that it rejects the thesis that the greatest good for the greatest number is the ultimate aim of ethical actionIt has a certain similarity to teleological ethics in its central insistence that we should foster the attainment of a virtuous character or dispositionThe virtues that find their most obvious expression in health care are those of compassion and careThese otherdirected virtues have been synonymous with health care since its very beginningSelfdirected virtues such as courage and forbearance are also available to health care providersSocial virtues such as justice and beneficence have also emerged as important in recent discussionsOne of the problems of virtue ethics as it is currently structured is that it provides no readily apparent conflict resolution mechanism5 Religiously Oriented EthicsReligiously oriented ethics evaluate ethical situations by reference to the set of religiously grounded guidelines or principles that are characteristic of the religion in questionThese principles or guidelines differ from religion to religion although there is considerable overlap among religions that belong to the same grouping for instance Islam Christianity and JudaismSee page 12 in the textbookBiomedical Ethics and BioethicistsBiomedical Ethics as a DisciplineBiomedical ethics or bioethics is a subspecies of ethicsIt consists in the application of ethical reasoning to issues that arise in the delivery of health care
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