Utilitarianism Ethical Theory and Ethical Decisions


Utilitarianism is an ethical theory of morality advocating for actions which promote happiness and pleasure and oppose actions producing pain or harm. In essence, the theory seeks to probe into whether actions seem morally upright by assessing the outcomes or their effects. Therefore, utilitarianism theory defines a right and wrong act on the consequences. The theory holds that most ethical decisions will produce the greatest good for the most significant number (Herring). The fact that utilitarianism focuses on promoting experiences such as happiness gives it a high chance of dominating other ethical theories since positive outcomes are preferred to adverse effects or pain for one individual.

Examples of Utilitarianism

The examples provided in this section reflect on the two types of utilitarianism. They include act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act of utilitarianism suggests that individuals ought to behave towards delivering the best or most significant amount of happiness. For instance, finding self as a rescuer at a kindergarten in a raging inferno. One dash in and rescue by getting them out three of the four children indicates the unitarianism. The fourth is further in the building, and the fire and smoke have affected visibility. If one leave the three near the exit and dash to rescue the fourth, he and the three children may also be victims and die. In this case, the person consider getting the three and yourself out as quickly as you can to save most individuals.

Rule utilitarianism suggests that individuals should capitalize on behaviors that often lead to happiness and use them for formal rules. For instance, a savings corporation member fails to deliver her contributions for the second month consecutively due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The corporate rules dictate that such a member must undergo a fine. All the corporate members empathize, but the majority remain adamant that the rules must be followed. Eventually, she is fined, a choice that act utilitarianism would not embrace.

Solid Criticism of the Ethical Theory

Utilitarianism does not account for justice and fairness among all members in a setting. The majority get justice while a minority do not, illustrateing marginal unfairness. For example, in a scenario of organ harvest, suggest four patients in a hospital require organs, kidney, heart, lungs, and liver. If a healthy donor is compelled to donate, his organs could be harvested to save four lives at the expense of one life. The decision to donate would produce the greatest good for the most significant number and harm one individual. Unitariansm could slightly go against the ethical principles which requires equity to all individuals regardless the circumstances. The principles of beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, and autonomy could be questioned in these events. It creates a dilemma which should be solved first before implementing the decision.

Defending Utilitarianism Against Critique

Promoting happiness for the most significant number in a society tends to produce maximum positive effects or happiness. Deciding to save four lives at the expense of one individual gives a great deal to society and its health. The act of Unitarianism is focused on the best interest of the majority in the community. It ensures satisfaction of the whole society other than a few individuals.

Relationship Between Ethics, Morality, and the Law

Ethics is an innate knowledge of right or wrong distinctions. Morality entails principles that persons in a specific setting adopt and abide by to distinguish between bad and good. Further, individuals use morals to judge and identify types of behavior in society, thereby regulating behavior. Law is a set of principles or a system with a set of rules established in a particular community by the authority to govern the members. Ethical and moral issues are not legal issues because they are based on the community’s perspective. Ethics is an inner understanding in which one may perceive to murder a robber as a moral act, but according to a country’s laws, it is illegal. The three relate in that for an individual to have ethics the law of the society makes them morally upright. Therefore, not all ethical and moral issues are considered legal.

A doctor may decide to do a resuscitation for a patient who had signed a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR). According to the professional code of ethics, the doctor will be sued for not following the directive. Still, he is legally right because he should resuscitate any patient gasping or struggling for breaths. Professionals should preferably follow the ethics even though they are illegal. The codes of ethics and acting morally right will protect their actions once they face the law because the healthcare code of ethics delineate that respect for human life is paramount.

The majority of health profession standards act as a reference in guiding on ethical issues. However, they cannot give a solution to every issue, one of the pros of adhering to ethical concern is that they help resolve conflicts between the patient, family members, and healthcare providers. Consequently, ethics present a platform that helps clinicians make decisions in healthcare settings. Secondly, abiding by ethics ensures respect from coworkers, and builds a therapeutic relationships with patients. Ethical issues are also important because they are set by a professional body or council that acts to protect healthcare workers’ decisions in the case; they are accused of breaking the law. The protection empowers the healthcare providers to execute their intervention by selecting the best option in case of an ethical dilemma.

Always be as Ethical as Possible

Firstly, understanding the implications of ethical issues in a setting or profession potentially keeps persons choosing and acting as per the predetermined principles. Expressing loyalty to ethics guides the best decision by focusing on the outcomes. Individuals should be well both physically and emotionally to make sound decisions that are as ethical as possible. Psychological imbalances predispose persons to illogical thinking resulting in unreasonable events. Therefore, it is crusial to evaluate peoples’ mental well-being while accounting for the wrongs committed. A normal society has different individuals from various settings who posses varied perceptions regarding ethics, hence, a possibility of breaching the norms.

Avoid Breaking the Law or Being Sued

Professionals should always ensure that documentation of information concerning any procedure or action is completed. That way, this will account for any mistakes done or any gaps left during practice. Professionals should understand all ethics and rights associated with their practice settings to remain aware of their actions and implications if they are breached. They should clearly understand the law and ethics to be able to make rational decisions. It ensures alighnment of the professional practice and the state regulation.

Work Cited

Herring, Jonathan. Medical law and ethics. 5th edition, Oxford University Press, 2014.

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Premium Papers. (2023) 'Utilitarianism Ethical Theory and Ethical Decisions'. 19 September.


Premium Papers. 2023. "Utilitarianism Ethical Theory and Ethical Decisions." September 19, 2023. https://premium-papers.com/utilitarianism-ethical-theory-and-ethical-decisions/.

1. Premium Papers. "Utilitarianism Ethical Theory and Ethical Decisions." September 19, 2023. https://premium-papers.com/utilitarianism-ethical-theory-and-ethical-decisions/.


Premium Papers. "Utilitarianism Ethical Theory and Ethical Decisions." September 19, 2023. https://premium-papers.com/utilitarianism-ethical-theory-and-ethical-decisions/.