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Egoism And Utilitarianism Essay

1168 words - 5 pages

To Treat or Not To Treat

To treat or not to treat, that is the question? What would you do? How does the subject of cancer treatment apply to the moral theories of Egoism and Utilitarianism? Which theory best addresses this problem? I would assert Egoism best handles the dilemmas undressed by this ethical scenario.
Egoism is a normative ethical theory that contends we act morally when in any given situation the right thing to do will be whatever maximally promotes long term self-interest. It does not describe how people behave; rather, it describes how people "ought" to behave. (Class notes February 23) This is a key element of all normative theories. Another key element of egoism ...view middle of the document...

English philosophers John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) were the leading proponents of what is now called Utilitarianism. Jeremy Bentham was a British reformer who believed the human experience can be summed up through either pleasure or pain. He defines the “Principle of Utility” as such; we ought to act only in ways that promote the long term happiness of everyone affected (or minimize the long term suffering). John Stuart Mill holds happiness to be not just quantitative; it’s also a matter of quality. (Class notes March 15) One of his most famous quotes states, “Pleasure and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends.”
Utilitarians are social reformers that support suffrage for women and those without property, and the abolition of slavery. They also argue that criminals ought to be reformed and not merely punished (although Mill did support capital punishment as a deterrent). Bentham spoke out against cruelty to animals. Mill was a strong supporter of meritocracy. Essentially, they believed that everyone’s happiness counts equally.
Imagine that you or a loved one were in the hospital suffering from a terminal illness, let’s say breast cancer, and the pain is so unbearable that the subject of continued treatment comes up. You want what is best for your loved one but the family is on the other end fighting as well, they want to discontinue treatment in which the patient's disease is allowed to run its natural course. And you seeing how much your love one wants to fight until the bitter end, no matter the cost. I again ask what you would do. Treat or not treat?
Both you and the family wants what is best for the sick loved one but only one decision can be made and allowed. Simply stated, an ethical egoist would say the loved one “ought” to determine what is in their “own” long term self-interest. Therefore, if it is their desire to continue treatment then so be it. To suffer unbearable pain is not enough of a deterrent when considering “long term” as a possibility. The loved one determines the definition of “quality” life and according to them the ability to live in pain outweighs the desire to end life to avoid prolonged suffering. To deny their wishes would deny their rights as an individual, and philosopher Ayn Rand contends, to deny the value of individualism is destructive.
Utilitarianism on the other hand, equates happiness with pleasure and...

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