Utilitarianism and Deontology

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Kambua Medical Consultants Ltd, a firm which offers medical consultations is the Company of focus. The doctors in this firm are faced with several ethical issues which will be judged whether they are morally right or wrong based on the two theories. In a typical business environment, all services offered must be paid for. In this respect therefore, all patients who come to the clinic must pay the consultation consultation and treatment fees. A time may come when a patient who is seriously sick comes yet he or she does not have the money. Should the doctor treat this patient or insist on payments first?

The concept of utilitarianism, as put forward  the British philosopher John Stuart Mill, with contributions of Jeremy bentham, is derived from the basic tenets of consequencialism. Utilitarianism, also called utilism is a theory that defines morality exclusively by its utility in giving maximum happiness or pleasure to all the parties who are victims of circumstance in the occurrence of an action. As a matter of fact, the moral worth of an action is dogged by its outcome. The proponents of this theory best describe it as that in which there is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This is viewed by philosophers in terms of pleasure/happiness or pain. In this regard therefore, an action is taken to be morally right only if is produces the highest utility in any alternative action (Rosen, 2003). Utilitarianism has it that the patient will be attended to if, by so doing, will bring happiness to the patient and to reduce the pain he or she is feeling.

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Deontological theory on the other hand is derived from the Greek word ‘deon’ which means duty or obligation. This theory defines the morality of an action based on the action’s adherence to a rule. In this case, the rightness of an action is judged by the consequences of that action. This is in contrast to the consequentiality who considers an action as right if it produces the greatest amount of happiness and least pain of any alternative action (Cornman, 1992).

The deontologist will judge the rightness of the action based on the set rules. In this case, the doctor is morally right if he adheres to the rule that payments must be made first. This is because the rules were set to regulate the activities of the firm. However, since deontological moral systems emphasize on why certain actions are done, they believe that these rules are not sufficient and hence the need to have correct motivations (Cornman, 1992). In this case, the doctor, by treating the patient without paying, may not be considered immoral, even though he will have broken the moral rule.

In a nutshell, the rightness or wrongness of an action is based on what people believe, rather than the obvious state of affairs.


Cornman, James, et al. (1992) Philosophical Problems and Argument: An Introduction.   Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Rosen, Frederick (2003). Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill. New           York: Routledge.


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