Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Case Sudy: Abortion (Utilitarianism)

In this case there are several different factors that contribute to the decision to have an abortion. First you have the four children that already exist. Then there is the desire of the mother to return to work which she chose to give up to care for her children. Finally the discovery that the fetus has Down’s Syndrome.

There are also several factors that may discourage Susan from getting an abortion. The desire both partners had to have a large family, which four children may or may not be. It may also be assumed that they are in a financial situation to care for another child. Also their youngest is in preschool so for at least part of the day the mother will have the time to devote to a new infant.

The moral question to be considered is, do these factors balance out in such a way to justify Susan obtaining an abortion?

Act utilitarianism says that a person should act in such a way to produce the greatest balance of good over evil. For this case not having the baby could be considered good for several reasons. One possibility is not bringing a baby home when there are already four children who require time and attention. Bringing a new child into a home can be very traumatic to other children. Another reason this may be considered a good act is that it gives the mother a chance to improve herself and increase her happiness. Her increased happiness would most likely affect her whole family positively as well. Going back to work would also affect her family positively financially. It does not say they need the money but her extra income could help them have opportunities they may not have otherwise. Because she had genetic testing on the fetus it is more than likely she is 35 or older, which means she may not be as young and able to run around after another young child besides that child also being disabled.

Negative effects of the abortion could include disappointment from her husband. He wanted a large family and even though she felt they were done he may have wanted to continue. If he feels very strongly about it, it could lead to anger, resentment, and divorce all of which would be very harm for the other children. It could also lead to guilt on the part of the mother alter on, especially if she does choose to have more children later.

I’m sure there are many other reasons for each side but I believe the balance of most good is on the side of obtaining the abortion. Are there any more valid reasons that could tip the balance? How would this situation change if the child would be normal? Would it be justifiable by any ethical principle to obtain an abortion if the fetus was normal and all other factors stayed the same?

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