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Choose the Ethical Theory You Think Is Most Important and Expand on Your Opinion Why

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In the words of Sir Gavin de Beer, a British evolutionary embryologist, “The scientific method is nothing but the exclusion of subjective opinions as far as possible by the devising of experiments where observation can give objective answers, yes or no.”

I chose to start with this quote in order to make it clear that throughout this assignment I will by no means assume that my subjective opinion is equal to any objective truth and that I have not devised any experiments to corroborate my preference. The importance I attach to preferred theory is based solely on my own values and beliefs.

In order to discuss my preferred theory, I will start with a brief background into the basic definition of bioethics and theories pertaining to this field of study; then I will elaborate on my preferred ethical theory and discuss the reasons behind my preference.

Bioethics overview

According one definition, Bioethics is ‘the study of moral and social implications of techniques resulting from advances in biological sciences.’ Bioethics might be regarded as a subfield of the branch of philosophy called ‘ethics’ whereby morals are used to determine what is right and what is wrong. This is not a modern field. According to Toby Schonfeld, bioethics is thinking about values that imbue healthcare science and technology. Bioethicists are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, and philosophy.

Ethical Theories

Relating to what we should do with biological knowledge, ethical theories are used in specific situations to provide the framework that can be used to evaluate an issue. It offers a common approach to various problems and aids with consistence in decision making.

In general, an ethical theory is the process by which we justify a particular ethical decision. It is a means by which we answer the question “What should I do?” The main purpose of a theory is to provide consistency and coherence in our decision making. When we have a theory we don’t need to figure out where to begin each time we meet a new problem. We will see how different values relate to each other. If we are consistent and coherent in our decision making, we will have a greater degree of internal unity and integrity in our decision making. Given the complexity of problems to be addressed, these qualities are extremely worthwhile.

Ethical Theories can be broken down into two broad categories. There is Character based ethical theories and there is Action based ethical theories.

Character based ethical theories look at character traits and human relationships. They ask questions like: Who is a good person? or What would a good person do? Fields of virtue ethics, relationality and responsibility, ethics of caring such as ethics of caring all use character based theories. Character based theories are however criticized because they are very subjective and very relative.

More commonly Action based ethical theories are used. These are the ethics of doing. What is the right thing to do? Or what is the good thing to do? In an action based ethical theory you can evaluate the means (the actual behavior) or the ends (the consequences of that behavior). Action based ethical theories are broken into two groups: Deontological ethical theory and Utilitarian ethical theory.

Deontology, with its roots in Kant, the correct ethical course is to follow duties regardless of their outcomes. Rightness is determined by features of acts other than their outcomes. An example of deontology is the Judea-Christian Ten Commandments. These commandments say you should not murder. This is not a suggestion. It doesn’t matter that you are killing someone to protect someone else. It does not matter whether it is self-defense. You should never do it.

Utilitarians look at the end or the consequence. Here we study the outcomes. You ask questions such as What happens if I do this? And you never think about duties or obligations. The correct ethical course here is determined by comparing outcomes. One can summarize the Utilitarian approach as the best ethical decision is the one that create the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

My Preferred Ethical Theory: Virtue ethical theory


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