Ethics Assignment

If you have not read our lesson this week about utilitarianism and its main proponent, John Stuart Mill, you should do so before beginning this assignment.

This week’s assignment presents a profoundly difficult dilemma, with you in an imagined professional role: You are a doctor in a surgical team of doctors managing a liver transplant. You are each utilitarians.

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A healthy young woman, Linda, had a fatal car accident this morning. She was an organ donor, your hospital has harvested her organs, and there are three liver transplant candidates on the hospital’s most-urgent list. All will die within the next month without a liver. You must choose one of the three candidates, and you must use utilitarianism as your main tool for doing so. Your team has about 12 hours left to make this decision. In this written assignment, please provide your complete utilitarian rationale for why your team chose one of the following candidates.

  • Recipient A is Francis. He is 57. He is a recovering alcoholic who has not had a drink in 9 months but has relapsed many times before. Francis is a beloved husband and a father to three teenage children. He is the president of a small, struggling credit union that may fail without him.
  • Recipient B is Miriam. She is 34. She doesn’t do much with her life, and she’s not a very nice person. She comes from a very wealthy family; her father recently donated $2 million to the hospital’s cancer research program. He’s said that he intends to donate even more—a whole new pediatric wing—in the next year. There’s a large risk that he will cease donating if his daughter dies.
  • Recipient C is Benji. He is 19. He has his whole life ahead of him. He’s a college sophomore getting good grades and thinking about becoming a doctor himself. There is a strong risk, however, based on past complications, that his body will reject the liver.

Which candidate is the strongest choice from your utilitarian perspective, and why? How have you eliminated the other candidates? You should write this as a team of doctors who are responsible for the candidate selection and medical procedure. Imagine your hospital’s board of trustees as your audience. You should use two or three quotes and paraphrases from Mill’s work (this will require library research) to support your decision, but you’re not writing primarily as a philosopher. Rather, you are a doctor who has grown to trust this philosophy in his profession. Your team should walk your audience through your decision from beginning to end. If this were a math assignment, you’d show your work. It’s not a math assignment, though, so the only wrong answer is one that you don’t effectively support.

Note: You may find that the real you does not actually agree with the utilitarian choice, or even that the utilitarian choice is not one a hospital ethics board would ultimately support. That’s okay! You are each imaginary doctors. You’re simply practicing arguing from this perspective. Your paper should be 3 to 5 pages and written in APA format.

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