Vaccinations are a common part of childhood in the US. But are they necessary and do we agree to have them simply of the basis that we have chosen to live in a society?

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Medical Ethics


Concluding Kant’s Theory

Moral Rights –

He expresses these as positive and negative rights. Or “freedom from” and “freedom to”

The rights to privacy, to not being killed, to not have our stuff taken from us, etc are all seen as negative rights.

The rights to education, medical care, food, housing and a fair trial are all seen as positive rights.

Kant points out that without both types of rights the categorical imperative would not work. In other words anything that you could will to universal law must not violate either set of rights.

Utilitarianism: Bentham

Bentham points out that two of the governing impulses in human nature are those of pain and pleasure. Within this we have a natural inclination towards pleasure and an avoidance of pain.

Bentham said that the purpose of morality is to maximize human happiness, as measured by pleasure and pain.

This being said Bentham didn’t have a strict structure of right and wrong but only that the right action was dependent upon the yield of greatest net happiness of all the alternatives.

Utility Principle

Idea put forth by John Stuart Mill. Essentially it states that the right act is that which creates the greatest good for the greatest number.

The most basic premise of utilitarianism is that acts are right in proportion to the amount of pleasure they produce while minimizing the amount of pain.

Moral Rights and the Harm Principle

Mill held that individual freedom be it of thought, speech, taste, action and political assembly was of the highest importance.

Individual freedom could only be curtailed by the harm principle.

“…the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” (45)

To prevent harm to others individual freedoms can be limited.

Bentham in Bhutan

In the 1970’s the King of Bhutan decided that the Gross National Product (GNP) wasn’t the best way to determine the economic health of his country. He decided that using a system to determine the GNH (Gross National Happiness) was a more appropriate measure for the health of his nation. After developing a complex way of measuring a number of factors it was put into place. With updates done every couple of years.

Social interests

Utilitarianism is much different from egoism in that it wants to put the focus on maximum collective pleasure and minimum collective pain. In this they mean that all persons impacted by a decision or action must be taken into account to determine the correct action.

Preference Satisfaction

Not all pleasures are equal and often times it is said that not all potential pleasures need be judge on the same scale. It is pointed out that often times it is whether the greater problem is not fulfilling ones preferences because we no longer have that option.

And as Peter Singer points out we are not all equal actors either with regard to potential pleasures or pains.


Teleological ethics are those that correct action is based upon the consequence of the action.

Deontological ethics is based upon an concrete right and wrong without regard for the consequences.

Spain Extends Rights to Apes

In a ruling on June 25, 2008 Spain became the first nation to offer support for the rights of great apes. This makes Spain the first country to formally recognize the rights of non-humans. Is this a step forward?

The Jodie and Mary Twins’ Tragedy

Case of conjoined twins born in October 2000. Parents didn’t want them separated however they were in England and English law doesn’t give the parental voice preference. So the court granted the medical team their motion and the two babies were separated ending in the death of ‘Mary’. In cases of this nature are we acting in a moral way when we move against the wishes of those most intimately involved?

Life vs. Law

Case of 11 year old girl who has lung cancer, never knew her father, mother has died, step-father has now legal standing to make decisions for her, and the court has agreed with her to refrain from life sustaining resuscitation. But at the last moment the girl panics and asks EMS to not let her die…the paramedic goes again the court order and vents her. Ultimately this treatment is stopped at the ER. Should he have done it in the first place?

Crossing the Border to Sell Blood

A company sets up shop on the border to Mexico. The offer to buy plasma products from donors, increasing the amount the more often they donate. They advertise on the other side of the border. Many of those living in Mexico do not have a weekly income equal to what is offered by donating twice a week. Is this company taking advantage of impoverished persons by doing this?

Is Vaccinating Part of the Social Contract?

Vaccinations are a common part of childhood in the US. But are they necessary and do we agree to have them simply of the basis that we have chosen to live in a society?

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