utilitarianism concept

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The principle of utilitarianism requires doing something moral or that provides the greatest amount of benefit to the majority of people (Purtilo & Doherty, 2015). The author analyzes the actions made when deciding on the problem of preserving lives. The author illustrates the ambiguity in the rhetorically induced concept of "saving lives" (Chappel, 2016). He claims that the word is frequently deceptive and promotes unjustifiable rhetorical support in medically allocated judgments with substantial advantages and downsides. While equality for all patients necessitates considering their interests on an equal basis, the author contends that not everyone has an equal interest in life-saving therapy. He identifies that individuals agree that curing a more serious disease falls higher in the hierarchy of treatment when compared to those with less serious diseases since it provides a greater benefit to the patient. However, the same is extended to patients with very different prognoses and this question the utilitarian ethics. The author therefore concludes that the society should recognize that patients present unequal life extension traits and this calls for allocation of medical resources efficiently.

Background statement

The author states that big-heartedness within the society calls for maximal assistance subject to the limited resources available. This is however, a different concept as assisting maximum patients if others benefit more than others do. The author follows the ideology on utilitarianism ethics in an attempt to answer the question on “what professionals ought to do” given the varying patient conditions. The ideology suggests that an individual ought to make the decisions that give the best results (Persad, 2017). He departs from the collective norm of saving lives arguing that the concept is not a fundamental ethical goal at all. Individuals should make decisions on patient’s life year rather than life numbers.

The literature provides significant ideology in which life years are different or unequal in certain cases. This information may assist institutions dealing with cases that may otherwise be presumed to suggest that patient numbers inherently matter. The study provides significant implications for research priorities, health and allocation of resources (McKie, Singer & Richardson, 2016). The author states that where additional information on changes in life expectancy accrues, individuals should depart from the common narrative on saving lives on an equal basis.

Story statement

Two patients, kelvin and Amos, were admitted in a local hospital both suffering similar symptoms. Kevin was a young man in his late twenties while Amos was at his late sixties. The doctors diagnosed them with bone cancer but due to the varying age and health differences, they were diagnosed to have different life expectancy years remaining. Kelvin was still young and therefore had a higher expectancy of two years remaining before his condition could deteriorate. Amos on the other hand had a weaker immunity and body strength and therefore the doctor was of the opinion that the cancer would wear him out at a more catalyzed rate.

At the material time, the hospital was experiencing management wrangles that affected the general performance of the hospital. For example, the hospital supplies had depleted and the hospital was understaffed. As a result, the resources required in treating both patients effectively were limited. However, following these circumstances, the administration made a utilitarianism decision to treat both patients until the hospital acquired additional resources for treating the disease. However, as time went by, the resources depleted and both patients succumbed to their illness. Despite having different life expectancy years left, they both lost their lives.

An analysis statement

The author suggests that professionals should make decisions based on life years rather than numbers. This means that more focus should be put on the life expectancy of subject patients rather than the overall number of patients benefiting from the same limited resource. This position prioritizes certain individuals to the limited resources available within an institution (Chappell, 2016). This is contrary to the recognized practice of saving as many people as possible despite the amount of resources that may be available. While this line of thought promotes quality care on those likely to survive, it provides ethical concerns of those patients who are neglected. Commentators state that all lives are significantly important despite the conditions on any patient (Persad, 2017). Thus while treatment prioritizes those with advantageous life expectancy years on their record, others would be ignored sentencing them to an assumed suffering or death.

The author suggests that the notion of saving lives provides a loose interpretation and this can therefore be misleading. He bases his argument on the patient’s years of life stating that death is never avoided and the better option would be to add the patient’s number of years. While the authors’ line of thought give rise to various ethical concerns, he suggests that this should be the preferred mode of decision making. He illustrates this problem by giving two case studies; John Harris’s discussion on quality adjusted life years (QALYs) and the view given by Bognar and Kerstein.

Conclusion statement

The material provides significant information on the various concerns identified by physicians and institutions when saving lives. The author offers a substantial narration on why choosing life years rather than life numbers would be more ethical. This information is helpful when making decisions that may raise ethical and moral concerns in various situations. Professionals should identify the intended main goal and make decisions that breed the most effective results despite other limited implications that may be attached.


Chappell, R. Y. (2016). Against ‘saving lives’: Equal concern and differential impact. Bioethics,

30(3), 159-164.

McKie, J., Singer, P., & Richardson, J. (2016). The allocation of health care resources: An

ethical evaluation of the'QALY'approach. Routledge.

Persad, G. (2017). Public Preferences About Fairness and the Ethics of Allocating Scarce

Medical Interventions. In Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fairness, Equity, and Justice

(pp. 51-65). Springer, Cham.

Purtilo, R. B., & Doherty, R. F. (2015). Ethical dimensions in the health professions. Elsevier

Health Sciences.

May 10, 2023

Philosophy Science Life

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