Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Case Study : Deontology

It is difficult to say whether Susan’s decision is moral or not. This is because of the way an abortion is being used. This non-traditional manner makes one question all of the conditions surrounding the case when deciding the morality of her decision.  The facts of the case are this; Susan has put her life on hold to have a family, she is the primary care taker of a very large family, she wants to return to her fulfilling life in the legal system, she then finds out that she is pregnant with a fetus that has Down syndrome, and she decides to have an abortion.

In Kantian deontology we must consider who is being affected by the decision because the categorical imperative must be met in order for this act to be considered morally correct. The categorical imperative here relies on what Susan is using as a way to get to her final goal of returning to her legal career. It gets tricky because normally, Kantian theorist would say it is morally wrong to have another human suffer to fulfill your own needs, but in the case of abortion the line between personhood and not is a blurred lined between theorists. In my eyes I agree with Thomson, that a clump of cells, not able to feel pain, should not be considered a human and therefore Susan is acting morally in relation to the fetus. Deontologists do not consider the uncertainty of the future when deciding what is moral or not and since we have considered the fetus non-human than the future of the handicapped fetus is not taken into consideration.

However, it is unclear if the husband knew about the genetic testing or the pregnancy in general. I am however sure that the husband would not be considered in methods to care for the child.  So although Susan is denying her husband the right to another child, another offspring to carry on his genetics (the goal of reproduction), it seems that the emotional experience with the child would not be felt if the child was born or not. That is why I think the Rossian deontologist would agree that the prima facie duty in this case is duty to oneself, not duty as a wife or as a pregnant woman. The prima facie duty takes in consideration all of the conditions of the case and would agree that for Susan to be happy and fulfilled she had to go through with the abortion.

It may seem cruel but the most important aspect is for Susan to retain her autonomy, and her civil right to govern her body as she may. Susan reminds me of Hornstra, and how she put her career before having a baby. I think Hornstra and Susan would agree that their bodies and their futures would come before a clump of cells.


Some questions to consider:

Utilitarian’s take into account the uncertainty of the future, but what would bring the greatest suffering for the future, Susan’s unhappiness? A handicapped life of the child? A familial rift between a husband and wife?

Which is more important fulfilling your duty to the community or to nature (mother hood)?

Would you consider abortion active euthanasia? And if so, who would you consider responsible for the abortion, the mother or the physician performing the act?


Posted by

Comments (15) Trackbacks (0)