Applying Ethical Theory

Applying Ethical Theory

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Applying Ethical Theory

In the case of JoEllen, the ethical issue relates to the autonomous right of a patient to decide on the type of care interventions they would like to receive or not receive. As described in the case, after overdosing on prescription medication with alcohol, JoEllen presents to the hospital where she only manages to utter the words, “Not supposed to be here…” before becoming uncommunicative. With rapidly deteriorating conditions, JoEllen’s son brings a notarized directive that the mother would have wanted not to be placed on life support. In this case, I would recommend the attending physicians to try their best to save the patient’s life, including setting her life support if need be. As much as the patient could have the autonomous right to decide on whether to be placed on life support or not, the case of JoEllen looks like one of suicide. According to Amer (2019), legal provisions supersede ethical issues. Since the government has the legal right to protect the lives of citizens, including from suicide, this statutory provision would replace the patient’s autonomous right to decide not to be placed on life support.

As such, the most viable ethical theory that would be applicable in this case is Utilitarianism. According to Utilitarianism, the most ethical choice an individual can make is the one that is reproductive of the highest good for the most significant frequency. As such, a decision to put the patient on life support could be the best one since it would be to the best action of the patient to give her a chance to face the challenges of life and emerge victoriously. From the presenting situation, the patient probably reached the decision not because of own volition but because of one made by problems of life that compelled him to commit suicide (Vinnari, Vinnari, & Kupsala, 2017). As such, Utilitarianism would advocate for action that would ensure that the patient and the family members remain happy after the physicians strive to save her life.

Moreover, three theories of normative ethics, including teleology, deontology, and consequentialism, could be applicable in this case. For instance, according to the provisions of deontology, human beings have a moral obligation to act according to specific sets of rules as well as principles with no regards to the outcome (Marković & Bokan, 2017). As such, since the law states that medical professionals should strive to save the life of patients suspected of an attempt to commit suicide so that they face trial for trying to take their lives, it would be the moral obligation of the attending physicians to save the patients’ lives. Conversely, consequentialism judges on the rightness or the wrongness of action based on the underlying consequences. In the case of JoEllen, a decision to fail to keep the patient on life support would have a negative result of helping the patient commit suicide hence the implication could be that the attending physicians are her accomplices. However, teleology is a morality theory deriving either duty or moral obligation of what is suitable as a desirable achievement (Amer, 2019). In the case of JoEllen, by refusing to obey the written directive that would prevent them from placing the patient on life support, the attending physicians would have committed a kind act by failing to help the patient commit suicide.

However, these theories also have specific advantages concerning the situation. For instance, deontology not only provides certainty but also deals with intention and motives hence providing that the patient’s intentions and motives aimed at committing suicide, which is not morally right. Similarly, teleology offers a basis for deciding against conflicting ethical issues besides informing good moral decision making (Lucas, Van Wee, & Maat, 2016). In the situation, teleology makes it easier for the physicians to decide on breaking the patient’s autonomous right because the underlying intention is morally wrong. Lastly, consequentialism not only provides an equal share of happiness for everyone but also focuses on the outcome assuming that the end product of the action would be ideal (Lucas, Van Wee, & Maat, 2016). For instance, by vouchering for attending physicians to save the patient’s life, this theory focuses on the outcome being ideal.

The three normative ethical theories also have certain disadvantages in the situation. For instance, deontology not only makes it hard for one to reconcile conflicting duties but also allows for acts that would render the world a less pleasant place for the patient who may have had enough for which to live. Moreover, teleology relates to such disadvantages as the difficulty associated with predicting future consequences and inconsistency with human rights (Marković & Bokan, 2017). For instance, it could be a wrong prediction that the patient wanted to commit suicide since the note could have no relation with the overdose of drugs. Lastly, the consequentialism tends to force physicians to predict consequences, and this may be inaccurate. For instance, the situation would force the physicians to make a prediction based on the patient’s actions and these could give a misleading inference.

References

Amer, A. B. (2019). Understanding the Ethical Theories in Medical Practice. Open Journal of Nursing, 9(02), 188.

Lucas, K., Van Wee, B., & Maat, K. (2016). A method to evaluate equitable accessibility: combining ethical theories and accessibility-based approaches. Transportation, 43(3), 473-490.

Marković, M., & Bokan, B. (2017). Instrument for verification of ethical theories in physical culture. Physical education and sport through the centuries, 4(1), 71-91.

Vinnari, M., Vinnari, E., & Kupsala, S. (2017). Sustainability matrix: Interest groups and ethical theories as the basis of decision-making. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 30(3), 349-366.

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