Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Case Study: Health Care & Justice (Utilitarianism)

Defined by the ethical implications of the concept “majority rules,” utilitarianism offers a form of justice that stands for the “actions that maximizes the overall good” of any situation. In this case we are presented with a 25 year old lady who is said to be suffering from a condition called Crohns diseases. The effects of this illness, as a result of her bad eating and lifestyle habits, have landed her in the hospital where she is informed of another devastating news. It appears that Maddy also has kidney stones and that is what is responsible for her abdominal pain. Aware of her options, Maddy is now faced with a decision that could result in a drastic change in her life. Does she adhere to the doctor’s advice or does she follow her own?

A utilitarian reading this case study would rather she follow the latter (in following her own judgment)! Should she decide to fulfill the latter in going forth with her own judgment, Mandy would surely be relieving herself as well as the healthcare system of any “burden.”Because she is medically uninsured, Maddy would have had to pay for all medical expenses including the medical surgical procedure herself.  As you can see, this is trouble for someone who is seriously ill and currently earning very little. Proposing to not go through with the surgery procedure from a utilitarian point of view would, therefore, prevent this dilemma and would even save her from the excess stress (stress that can only worsen her current condition). Condoning this act will also benefit the health care system in the sense that it wouldn’t be forced to cover the expenses that Maddy fails to pay. In the end this works out for the greatest good in the sense of having satisfied both parties. The health system would be protected from the burdens of “payment” while Maddy, in addition to this, would also be spared a stressful lifestyle following the surgery (the stress would come from trying to figure out the payment situation).

Some may argue that Maddy’s need for surgery outweighs the effects of the cost on her life or the health care system but a utilitarian may argue the opposite.  Stress, indirectly, played a major role in the “worsening” of Maddy’s condition when she had to juggle between a job and school. If she decides to go through with the surgery, Maddy stands the possibility of being “stressed out” again and that can cause her to be in a state that is far worse than where she currently is right now.

At this point, the only sound resolution would be to get an insurance. She should speak to her physician or someone else that she trusts about finding an insurance policy that is just right for her. OR she can work out some kind of arrangement with her physician; say… to pay of the medical bills in small increments every week or month until it is all paid off although, I’m not so sure how that would work out or if it’s even possible at all. However, proceeding to follow one of the three suggested options about Maddy’s condition will be sure to grant her the best possible care, in the eyes of utilitarian laws.


What other alternatives from you assigned prospective can you provide for Maddy in this case?


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