Philosophy -- Medical Ethics Issues Compare Essay

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Philosophy -- Medical Ethics Issues

Compare and contrast the different types of moral reasoning (moral absolutism, moral objectivism, etc.). What are the benefits and burdens of each? Which is closest to your own view of morality and why?

Moral absolutism is the position that certain acts or forms of choices of conduct are always morally wrong, regardless of any circumstances in which those acts or choices of conduct may occur (Vaughn, 2009). According to moral absolutism, for example, if the act of being dishonest and the choice to end a human life are morally wrong, then there are absolutely no exceptions to that rule. If one subscribes to moral absolutism, it would be morally wrong to tell a lie to a murderer who asked where his intended victim lives; likewise, it would never be permissible to end a human life, even where the individual involved was suffering horribly and had absolutely no chance of recovering, regardless of how much the person pleaded for assistance in escaping the suffering of a slow agonizing death (Vaughn, 2009).

The only possible "benefit" of moral absolutism would be the extreme clarity of rules and principles because there is no room for interpretation or ambiguity (Vaughn, 2009). The drawbacks of moral absolutism are that it is completely inflexible and incapable of generating the best result in many situations. For example, during World War II, the Nazis occupied almost the entire European continent and systematically rooted out Jewish civilians for the purpose of exterminating them and committing crimes against humanity. If lying is considered immoral, moral absolutism would prohibit a Christian civilian from lying to Nazi officials about the whereabouts of Jewish neighbors (Vaughn, 2009).

Moral relativism is the polar opposite of moral absolutism in that it permits virtually any designation of morality or immorality on given conduct based purely on the social context in which it occurs (Vaughn, 2009). Therefore, in the previous situation in Nazi-occupied Europe, moral relativism would have sanctioned the slaughter of German Jews as a perfectly moral action if it was the product of a democratically elected government and societal laws that emerged in the regular manner that laws are enacted in that country. Similarly, the moral relativistic analysis would have completely excused the institution of slavery throughout the American South a century earlier based on the fact that the predominant cultural view supported slavery. Meanwhile, moral relativism might have considered slavery immoral in the American North, based on the fact that most of Northern society disapproved of slavery (Vaughn, 2009). The main benefit of moral relativism is that it allows for the incorporation of social norms and values. However, that benefit is far outweighed by the problem that moral relativism provides no independent basis for determining morality and can produce extremely bad results, as illustrated.

Moral objectivism is the best approach to moral analysis because it allows for the establishment of the same general moral principles as moral absolutism and also allows the incorporation of certain aspects of social norms within a complex framework of the many issues that may contribute to the determination of moral concepts (Vaughn, 2009). Its primary benefits are that it allows for the establishment of definitive moral rules (such as prohibiting dishonesty) but it also is flexible enough to recognize the better outcomes associated with recognizing specific exceptions to general rules (such as in the case of lying to the murder or to Nazi officials during Word War II). Therefore, moral objectivism would be my choice for a valid moral perspective.

2) Why is autonomy such an essential moral value for Medical Ethics? How is autonomy preserved in medical ethics? Are there limits to autonomy? Why or why not?

Personal autonomy is the right of the individual to make decisions about his or her medical care and treatment (Vaughn, 2009). Personal autonomy is crucial in the field of medical ethics because many medical decisions are highly personal and many individuals in similar circumstances may not have the same preferences for their care. Generally, nobody has a moral right to interfere in the decisions made by a person about matters affecting only his or her medical care.

Within the medical context, personal autonomy is highly important and the formal laws and professional rules of medical ethics protect patients from being subjected to the decisions of others in situations where those decisions ought to be rightfully made only by the patient (Vaughn, 2009). Specifically, the law protects patients by requiring their written consent for medical treatment. Moreover, the law also requires that medical service providers furnish sufficient information to ensure that any medical consent obtained from patients is informed consent. That means that it is the product of their free choice after medical service providers have made the specific efforts necessary to help patients understand all of the factors and implications of any medical choices (Vaughn, 2009).

There are various objectively justifiable exceptions to the general principle of respect for personal autonomy in the medical context. For example, parents and legal guardians are allowed to make medical decisions for children because minors are not considered to possess the necessary mental capacity and maturity to understand complex issues or to make important decisions about healthcare (Vaughn, 2009). Generally, this distinction in appropriate, because small children cannot be trusted to make important decisions about many things. Even so, older minors (such as teenagers) may have more rights than very young children to participate in decisions about their healthcare and may occasionally seek help from the court system to make decisions about their healthcare that contradicts the express wishes of their parents or guardians (Vaughn, 2009).

There are also limits to the principle of autonomy in the case of adult patients who are incapable of making informed decisions, such as where they suffer from cognitive decline in old age (e.g. Alzheimer's patients) or acute mental illness (Vaughn, 2009). Similarly, where patients lack the mental capacity to make informed decisions about important matters deficient for other reasons such as chronic mental deficiency, it may be inappropriate to expect or allow them to make important decisions about their healthcare despite the fact that the general principle is designed to guarantee autonomous rights in that regard (Vaughn, 2009).

Generally, the rule about respecting patient autonomy is one of the most important concepts in modern medical ethics. However, the fact that they recognize various exceptions based on objective criteria (such as cognitive awareness, comprehension, and decision-making capacity, etc.) is an example of the benefits of the moral objectivism approach to ethical dilemmas. The moral absolutism approach would require that even mentally incompetent individuals make their own medical decisions based on the rule that patient autonomy must not be violated. Conversely, the moral relativism approach might even permit active euthanasia against the patients' will if the rest of society reached a consensus that the elderly should not be permitted to live beyond a certain age, for just one example.

3) Is health care a right? Defend your answer and be sure to define all terms.

In the most general sense, healthcare is a right in so far as the autonomous right of individuals to seek out medical treatments they may wish to receive. There is not necessarily any automatic moral "right" to healthcare in terms of any obligation of society to provide healthcare to citizens any more than there is any independent "right" to receive anything else of monetary value in society that one cannot afford to fund independently. Generally, rights pertain to the manner in which individuals have the same opportunities and receive similar treatment by society and that no group or individual is deprived of the same kinds of opportunities as others in society.

However, healthcare, in the sense that we discuss it in this context, means access to modern medical care and services that are generally available in society (Vaughn, 2009). In that regard, healthcare can be thought of as a right to the extent social institutions are involved in providing healthcare-related services. That concept is hardly unique to healthcare; it applies much more generally. For example, there is not "right" to public transportation or to public assistance. However, once the government establishes public transportation services and public assistance agencies and benefits, everyone in society has the same fundamental right to benefit from or receive those services provided they meet the objective criteria established for eligibility. That also applies to healthcare: everyone has the same right to receive any healthcare-related services that are available, subject only to satisfying objective eligibility criteria.

In the United States, formal laws about the right to receive healthcare services reflect public policies that recognize the importance of healthcare and fact that many people cannot afford to pay for certain types of healthcare. For example, there are legal requirements that pertain to hospitals with emergency departments that mandate the treatment of any person in need of emergency medical care, irrespective of the ability to pay for those services (Vaughn, 2009).

As a practical matter, it may be much… [END OF PREVIEW]

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