The Dilemma Essay
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The dilemma that Ms. Lee faces is not easy to resolve. There are various factors to consider in determining what the best action to take is. This is the primary point of contention in the scenario? Ms. Lee faces the question of what is the morally and ethically sound decision to make.
The choice that Ms. Lee would make would determine whether Rose lives or dies. This is indeed a major ethical dilemma. Are certain instructions enough to validate the loss of a child’s life? This
Ms. Lee must make choose between two options. The first option is to honor Rose’s parent’s request that Rose would not be resuscitated in the event of a seizure. The other is for Ms. Lee to provide medical assistance to Rose despite of the parents’ orders. Each of the choices presents certain principles that need to be taken into consideration.
Ms. Lee’s first option is to follow the instructions of Rose’s parents.
This option would mean that Ms. Lee would go against her own principle and belief that every child has the right to live a full life regardless of any disability. Moreover, such move will go against the institution’s policy that medical assistance must be provided to any child whenever necessary and possible.
The other option for Ms. Lee is to provide Rose with CPR. However, such course of action will go against the specific instructions that Rose’s parents gave. In fact, Rose’s parents submitted a formal notice to the principal of the school informing them of such decision. By giving Rose CPR, Ms. Lee will disobey the orders stated in the formal notice. Furthermore, Ms. Lee may also cause further problems for Rose’s parents who are having a difficult time making ends meet and providing for their other children.
The dilemma is a case of what ethical reasoning to follow. The solution to the case will depend on what type of ethics is to be applied. The following section will discuss to possible schools of ethics that maybe applied in determining the solution to Ms. Lee’s dilemma.
Consequentialism is a group of moral theories that consider only the consequences of actions. Although consequentialism can be applied at various levels, the most prominent use of such normative properties is to determine how morally right the act is. What this means is that consequetialism is usually applied to cases wherein the morality of a certain action is being considered. Furthermore, consequentialism suggests that the moral status of a certain act is dependent on the goodness or badness of the consequences of the action. According to Fesser (), a consequentialist believes that, “An action is morally right if the consequences of that action are more favorable than unfavorable.”
There are several ethical theories that fall under the consequentialist approach. One of such theories is ulitarianism. This type of consequentialism suggests that decisions should be made by using a cost-benefit analysis. Furthermore, an important principle of utilitarianism is that the action must be beneficial to everyone or to the majority. According to Carter (2002):
A commonly accepted utilitarian calculus for determining an action’s moral acceptability is; “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Thus, a consequentialist would typically attempt to calculate the consequences or outcome of a decision and if the benefits of the outcome are outweighed by the risks of either not performing the action or performing some other action, then the action is considered as morally desirable.
When these principles are applied to Ms. Lee’s dilemma, it is evident that Ms. Lee must choose to follow the order of Rose’s parents. Weighing the benefits of choosing to follow the instructions against the risks of doing so will reveal that more people will benefit from the decision.
Since Rose’s parents have admitted that they are struggling to continue to provide their children with their needs, following their instructions will allow Rose’s parents to provide a better life for all their other children. Following the formula suggested by Carter (2002), “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” Ms. Lee will be led to a decision where she must abide by the instructions of Rose’s parents for such move will benefit a greater number of people.
Another type or form of normative ethics is virtue ethics. This form of ethics places emphasis on the virtues or moral character of the person. Applying virtue ethics will mean that every action must be analyzed on the basis of what virtue will result from it. Moreover, virtue ethics requires an individual to answer the question, “how should I live?” The answer to such question is that one must live with a virtuous character.
Character is a vital concept in virtue ethics. The concept of character in virtue ethics is based on Aristotlean character. Athanassoulis (2006) states:
“Aristotelian character is, importantly, about a state of being. It’s about having the appropriate inner states… Aristotelian theory is a theory of action, since having the virtuous inner dispositions will also involve being moved to act in accordance with them. Realizing that kindness is the appropriate response to a situation and feeling appropriately kindly disposed will also lead to a corresponding attempt to act kindly.”
Also, virtue ethics suggests that character traits are stable and fixed. Meaning, when a person possesses a certain trait, he is expected to demonstrate such trait in all scenarios even there are times that he will find it difficult to do so.
When applied to resolution of Ms. Lee’s ethical dilemma, one must consider the character traits that she possesses. Ms. Lee is known to be compassionate and caring especially to young children. Thus, when she sees a child or person in need, she provides assistance in any way possible.
One way to resolve the issue is for Ms. Lee to maintain her compassionate nature as prescribed by virtue ethics. Although it may be difficult to do so, owing to the fact that standing orders have been made not to resuscitate Rose, Ms. Lee is still expected to apply compassion since it is in her character. Moreover, one can view the situation from the perspective that one is ought to live compassionately which would mean that Ms. Lee ought to provide medical assistance to Rose when she needs it. It is deemed to be virtuously wrong for Ms. Lee to leave Rose be as it is not the way that Ms. Lee should live her life.
Resolution of the Dilemma
I believe that in Ms. Lee’s case, virtue and character must prevail over consequences. It is my personal belief that much of what is ethically correct is based on the virtues and traits that one exercises when acting or deciding.
In the case of Ms. Lee, I believe that even before the event occurred, she already knew how she wanted to live her life. It is the same reason why she believed that every child, regardless of disability, has the right to live a full life. Such belief of hers demonstrates her character and virtue of being compassionate. Moreover, her decision to work in an SSP school shows that she wants to live a life of compassion especially for children who have special needs. Thus, it is expected that she continues to demonstrate such character trait despite the difficulty of the circumstance.
Using virtue ethics as the basis of the resolution, I find that I am more inclined to helping Rose despite the “do not resuscitate” orders of her parents. Just watching someone die is not the way one should live her life. Watching Rose lie helplessly on the floor does not show compassion. It is in helping Rose that Ms. Lee would live a virtuous life, a life of compassion and service to others.
Athanassoulis, N. (2006). “Virtue Ethics.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 18 June 2007 from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/v/virtue.htm#SH3c.
Carter, L. (2002). A primer to ethical analysis. Office of Public Policy and Ethics
Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Australia. Retrieved 18 June 2007 from: http://www.uq.edu.au/oppe.
Fieser, J. (2006). “Ethics.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 18 June 2007 from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/e/ethics.htm.
Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2007). “Consequentialism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 18 June 2007 from: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2007/entries/consequentialism/.