The Ultimate Decision between Two Lives
by Evalina21 on February 9, 2015 - 2:42pm
Moral dilemmas present controversial situations that most people would rather ignore. Doctors and surgeons often have to make such decision that involves their patients' lives . There is a lot of pressure on these professions to do the right thing. The words “right thing” might vary from person to person because of different social context, time period and tradition. Nevertheless, their main duty is to sustain the patient’s life with respect. What happens when the doctor can only pick one of the two patients’ lives? To better understand, let’s begin with an example. For instance, you are a surgeon who performs emergency C sections. Due to complications, the mother-to-be is unconscious and is unable to make a decision. You know from past experiences that you can either save the fetus or the mother and you must act fast or else it may lead to two deaths. You are unaware of any personal background information on the patient. What should you do?
In a teleological world, decisions are based on predictions of what the possible consequences may be. The main objective is to pick the one that will bring the most good or happiness to the community which for them is also the most important (Merril 25). This brings up the notion of the summun bonum which is to deliver the greatest good to the most amount of people by maximizing the “utility”. The term is commonly used in utilitarianism. Therefore, there is a need to make a moral calculation in order to reach a final conclusion. This is what is deemed to be right.
There are two possible outcomes from this scenario: to save the mother or to save the fetus. Either of these lost will include pain, so the goal here is minimize the amount of people that it will affect. According to teleology, the correct verdict would be to save the mother. The mother has already established a life and social relationships with friends and family. There will be more people who will grieve for her lost than the one of the fetus who has not yet developed as many relationships. She also has more to offer to society (paying taxes), but the fetus is not guarantee to reach that life expectancy. In other words, her life has more value. Also, the burden and the responsibility of the father will impact him permanently along with his friends and family. Upon this decision, the parents will most likely receive the most amount of pain but it limited to the family. The consequences are less in terms of quantity. In the future, there is also the opportunity of trying to have more children which will lead to more happiness for the community. Hence, saving the mother would seem to be the most reasonable according to teleology.
John C. Merril, “Overview: Theoretical Foundations for Media Ethics,” 3-32 in A. David Gordon, John M Kittross, John C Merrill, William Babcock, and Michael Dorsher (eds.),Controversies in Media Ethics, 3rd Edition (New York:Routledge,2011)