Utilitarianism is a collection of ethical theories that tries to explain the rightness of decisions, actions, policies and choices by considering their impact or consequences on the welfare of either animal or human beings. Utilitarianism assumes that an ethical action is one that maximizes utility. Utility, according to the founder of Utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham, is the sum of pleasure resulting from an action minus the suffering incurred by any individual involved in an action. Utilitarian is a consequentialist version, meaning that its consequences happen to be only standard or wrong or right (Nathanson, n.d.). The theories have been found to have significant influence among economists, philosophers, social and political scientists in the ongoing debate on ethics, especially in the twenty-first century. Some of the issues that have been of concern include euthanasia, sexual morality, and abortion. Three main components of the Act utilitarianism namely consequence component, range component and the value component has been discussed. According to the consequent component, rightness is tied to consequences which are better than any other alternative. The value component, on the other hand, holds that consequences are to be assessed regarding intrinsic goodness that is standard. The classical view of utilitarianism is that an action, decision, choice or a strategy is considered right or wrong if it offers the best consequences.
“Abortion is defended today as a means of ensuring the equality and independence of women, and as a solution to the problems of single parenting, child abuse, and the feminization of poverty”( Casey, n.d.). The debate on abortion is a continuing controversy on whether induced abortion is legal, ethical, and religiously acceptable. Some argue that that: everyone has a right to life; a fetus is a person; this means that the fetus should be allowed to enjoy its right to life; therefore, abortion takes that right away from the fetus. The opposing side feels that a woman has right over her body and should decide whether to keep or terminate her pregnancy. The “pro-choice movement” in the abortion debate feels that women have a right to decide on whether to abort. A far as utilitarian is concerned, it is all about utility. Is there a utility on the side of the side of the pregnant woman having an abortion? The answer is yes and no. A child is known to bring happiness to her parents and carrying out an abortion eliminates such a utility. Also, the mother is likely to suffer psychologically because of the abortion. Reduced utility renders the action unethical. On the other hand, the mother could be doing it to save her life. Again, she could be doing it to save herself from the difficulty of raising the child. These are factors that make it ethical regarding Utilitarianism. The fetus has a right to life because it is a person. Taking this life from the fetus by way of abortion denies it the opportunity to enjoy life. Again, if such a person were to be born and be successful in life then through abortion, all this is denied to them (Thomson, 2015). These factors indicate reduced denied utility to the fetus making the action unethical. On the other hand, not all people happen to be successful in life. In fact, some are subjected to a lot of pain and suffering in life. If this could turn out to be the case after the person is born, then an abortion would be reducing such suffering. There is also the aspect of pain the fetus is exposed to during an abortion. According to research, the fetus feels pain during an abortion at certain ages (Miller, 2016). If the baby is to go through such suffering and pain, then the action is said to deny utility to the baby. What are the effects of abortion on the society? What does a person born into the society bring with them? Is it utility or suffering and pain? Every society is happy when a new child is born. Every new person means a lot to the society. The society wants to expand. It needs more contributors’ regarding production, taxpayers, and leaders among others. This is denied through abortion, which reduces the utility on the side of the society. However, who knows what a child would be born and grow to become. Some people become problematic, for instance, they become serial killers, drug traffickers, rapists, sexual sadists, thieves, conmen, and bunglers among other adverse characters. These are known for inflicting pain and suffering and pain to the society. Abortions could reduce such pain and suffering to the society. However, it is not possible to determine what a person would become.
“Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia have been profound ethical issues confronting doctors since the birth of Western medicine, more than 2,000 years ago” (Emanuel, n.d.). It is a moral issue for health practitioners such as nurses. Euthanasia is the form of two primary aspects. Active and passive aspect. Active aspect occurs when a nurse or any other health practitioner intentionally makes one die. It is better said as killing a patient. The passive aspect is when the nurse allows a patient to die or fails to prevent a patient from dying yet he/she can do so. Active Euthanasia can be executed using muscle relaxing medicine or use of potassium chloride among other ways (Singer, 2003). According to the Euthanasia theory, an action taken or a decision made should bring the maximum happiness to the largest numbers and the aftermath is what determines the moral aspect of the original issue. Consider a scenario that involves voluntary Euthanasia where a patient whose health condition is very critical to the extent that it is not possible for the individual to recover and requesting to die. According to the utilitarianism argument, that is morally correct as the patients will not have to suffer from much pain. The situation increases the satisfaction of the ill patient as he/ she will be saved from extreme pain which could result in more pains. Additionally, the family members will be saved from seeing the ill patients helpless with extreme pain. The utilitarianism also argues that individuals have authority over their bodies. This, therefore, means that no one else including the government has the power to contradict the decisions an individual makes on his/her body. When ill patients prefer to terminate their lives, no one should interfere with their decisions as they have sovereignty over their bodies.
“Sex is… perfectly natural. It’s something that’s pleasurable. It’s enjoyable and it enhances a relationship. So why don’t we learn as much as we can about it and become comfortable with ourselves as sexual human beings because we are all sexual?” (Johanson, n.d.).
Ethical utilitarianism theory has its views on Sexual Morality. Sex in the modern society has been viewed in an irrigational way. Various thoughts about this theory have been identified and have been regarded to fit in the modern society. According to its view on sex, the theory articulates that sex before marriage can be acceptable in such a way that if the two individuals involved freely agree. The theory says that sex that is between two people who freely agree to it would be acceptable. Additionally, it mentions that sex is the greatest happiness for the majority, and so adults can enjoy the fact that they agree with each other. On the other hand, the theory claims that sex before marriage would bring about some problems. For example, not knowing the person you are doing sex with may result to spread of STIs and pregnancy (Malón, 2016). Utilitarianism is tolerant of nontraditional sexual orientations. In this case, if marrying and having sex with more than one person is what satisfies you, then this would be acceptable. However, the persons involved should be consent simply because they should. This act may cause public offense, and can as well result to jealousy and upset of individuals. The theory, in its point of view, does not support the use of contraceptives. If the individuals involved do not have an issue with contraception employed then, in this case, it is acceptable. However, according to view, contraception can be an advantage to the persons involved in sex as well as the society at large. For instance, it may stop the spread of deadly infections such as HIV. Also, unwanted pregnancies can be prevented. According to the theory, individuals have the choice to make if they want to use, they should be free. However, if you have a problem with it, then it is your choice to make if to use or not (Reamer, 2017). Every person has their views on sexual morality. Understanding the facts on sexual morality can be important. The issue of abortion can be tricky to determine its morality through Utilitarianism. Whether it is wrong or right may only be determined by its favorable and adverse effects it has on the fetus, the mother, and the society. Again, there are both favorable and adverse effects in each of these parties. However, the traditional utilitarianism argument on justification on how allowing a person to die or killing a person in pain may not apply. We still need to consider the chances that a sudden cure would probably be found, and that would save the life of such some patients. We also need to consider the limitation of the utilitarianism argument (Smart, 1973). According to the theories, respect for human life is overlooked. There exist many discoveries that can be used as alternatives for such ill terminally patients. Utilitarian ethics can be discussed as a normative ethical system that is usually based on the consequences of ethical decisions. In this case, it can be understood as a consequential theory, which primarily has the same meaning that the result of the act is the most significant determinant of the act being moral or not. Consequential reasoning entails that the ethical decision is based on the consequences of the actions. A person will have to do the right thing if the results of his or her actions are good. However, if the act that was performed by the person was not good, and the results turned out to be good, the act may be deemed a good ethical act. In such cases, morality is based on the results of the actions. Due to the consequentialist nature of utilitarianism, getting to the ethical decision is secondary; however, the result is what should be considered in determining the morality of the decision (Russell, 1936).