Homework Question on The Utilitarian
- Jim is a drifter who has no friends. But he learns that a long-lost relative is in the hospital and travels to Shelbyville intending to visit her. In fact, Jim has the wrong town. It turns out that the relative is miles away in Springfield. So Jim gives up and falls asleep on the lawn outside the Shelbyville General Hospital. Inside a desperate doctor is struggling with nine seriously ill patients. Patient #1 urgently needs a new heart or he will die. Patient #2 needs a new liver or he will die. Patient #3 needs a new kidney or he will die. And so on, up to Patient #9, who needs new lungs or he will die.
- The doctor spies Jim asleep on the lawn. Glancing at his medicine cabinet, he knows that it would be a simple matter to kill Jim off without anyone ever knowing and transplanting his organs to his dying patients. He is faced with a choice: kill Jim and harvest his organs, thereby saving nine prominent citizen, or leave Jim alone, in which case they will all surely die.
In a short paper answer the following questions about the doctor’s dilemma.
- What would a utilitarian say the right thing to do is?
- Are there any problems with the utilitarian answer to the doctor’s dilemma?
- What is the right thing to do?
- Why is this the right thing to do?
- Can the utilitarian correctly explain why this is the right thing to do? If so, why? If not, why not?
Homework Answer on The Utilitarian
The Utilitarian usually includes all of the good and bad effects produced by an act. This is whether the consequences arise during or after the act has been performed. An insignificant difference in the consequences of alternative acts results in some Utilitarians disregarding the choice alternatives as a moral issue (West 1). In such a case as Jimmy’s, a utilitarian would go ahead to kill Jimmy and Save 9 patients.
This, in utilitarian perspective, would lead to 9 more happy people, alongside their families and friends. As for Jimmy, since he does not have many friends, no one would be unhappy. Jimmy is a drifter and seems like a person who is almost giving up on life. The patients on the other hand need urgent transplants, which would be supplied on jimmy’s death. A utilitarian would not waste time to kill Jimmy and use his organs to save all the nine patients.
The problem with such a perspective is that it advocates for the elimination of a life first. While it would be a noble idea to save nine lives, Jimmy has not shown willingness to die. Showing willingness to die is not an automatic ticket for the utilitarian to advocate for Jimmy’s killing. Even though it may save the lives of nine other people, it is ethically wrong. The patients are sick and will die if the utilitarian step is ignored. The patients’ sickness is nature driven.