Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Case Study: Euthanasia (Deontology)

Emma Ogden has been suffering from a persistent heart defect her whole twelve-year-old life.  Dr. Abdul Hamid conveys to her and her parents that the only chance of survival that Emma has is a risky heart transplant procedure.  Emma, who is mature for her age, decides that she does not want to go through with the procedure and accept the consequences which would be  death.  Dr. Hamid is startled and wants to treat her but is stuck.

In deontology, morality is based on what one's duty is and doing one's duty.  In this case, the duty of the physician is to go through whatever channel he can and see to it that the heart transplant takes place.  Dr. Hamid must overlook the fact that Emma has stated that she does not want the heart transplant; after all, Emma is still a minor.  How can a twelve-year-old know what's best for her in a field that makes their students study for practically twelve years.  Dr. Hamid does have a duty towards the parents of Emma since she is a minor.  He needs to talk to Emma's parents and get the consent to go through with the procedure.  According to deontology, I feel that Dr. Hamid's duty towards Emma's parents is less important than his duty as a physician.  If consent cannot be obtained, Dr. Hamid's duty still doesn't change in performing the operation.  He must then, like the last sentence of the case study says, obtain a court order giving him permission to operate against the wishes of both the girl and her parents.

In Kantian deontology, we have what is called perfect duties.  Essentially, a perfect duty is one that does not go against natural.  Of the numerous perfect duties, there are three that stand out: do not kill, do not lie, and the duty to keep promises. The third and final perfect duty that Kant believes is most relevant here.  When Dr. Hamid became a physician, he took the Hippocratic Oath.  In that Oath, he specifically pledged that he would "...apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required..."  By finding a way to operate on Emma, Dr. Hamid would be upholding the truths that he pledged to years ago.

In Rossian deontology, we have what is called prima facie duties.  Prima facies duties are different from Kant's perfect duties and imperfect duties in a sense that a perfect duty can be transgressed in order to obtain an imperfect duty or rather a greater good.  Dr. Hamid's prima facie duty is to go against the family's wishes in order to obtain permission a court order giving him permission to perform the heart transplant.  The greater good here is the heart transplant since it will give Emma the best chance of survival, and so, according to Rossian deontology, Dr. Hamid must see to it that it takes place.

What are Dr. Hamid's main duties?

What are your ethical views on this case?

Do you guys agree with Kantian deontology in this specific case?

Do you guys agree with Rossian deontology in this specific case?



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