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How Benthams Utilitarianism May be Applied to one Ethical Issue of Your Choice Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

I will examine how Bentham’s utilitarianism would be applied in terms of organ transplantation.

Utilitarian’s believe that humans are motivated by the pursuit to maximise happiness and minimise pain, which is called a hedonist view. Utilitarianism is an ethical principle, a philosophical system which takes into account consequences of an action rather than motives, where the happiness of the greatest number should be the result, as it is therefore morally right.

Jeremy Bentham’s understanding of the utilitarian principle is called Act Utilitarianism. His approach states that the rightness or wrongness of an individual act is calculated by the amount of happiness that results from the act. His view is also a hedonist view, which proposes that the main good is pleasure, whilst the main evil is pain. He therefore proposed that all humans pursue the maximisation of pleasure and minimisation of pain.

Bentham believed in the greatest good for the greatest number, and believed that quantity (rather than Mills belief in quality) played the main role in deciding whether and act was good or not, as the one providing most pleasure for most people, whilst providing least or no pain, is seen as the best choice by Bentham. To decide the value of happiness created within such an act, Bentham created the Hedonic calculus, with 7 criteria which help calculate pain and pleasure generated by an act. These are –

* Duration – how long the pain/pleasure lasts. If there were 2 options, one which causes a long lasting pleasure, and the other which causes a short lasting pleasure, the long lasting pleasure would out win the other.

* Fecundity – probability that the pleasure/pain will reproduce. If the pleasure will keep on occurring in the future, rather than just happening once, it is seen as a higher pleasure.

* Purity – Will the pleasure bring about more pleasure? If an act, that causes pleasure to one, but later becoming a pain is impure. Therefore a pleasure that would bring about more pleasure (such as medicine rather than recreational drugs) is seen as a higher pleasure.

* Remoteness – When will the pleasure/pain occur? If the pleasure is to occur immediately, rather than in the future, it is seen as a higher pleasure.

* Certainty – the likeliness the pleasure/pain will occur. A pleasure that is 100% likely to occur is a higher pleasure than one that is only 50% likely to occur.

* Intensity – How intense will the pleasure/pain be? A pleasure that will only bring a little bit of happiness is seen less valuable than one that would bring more.

* The number of people affected (quantity). Bentham’s comes back around the quantity of people, as he believed in the

greatest good for greatest number. Therefore, if doing one act causes pleasure to 100 people whilst

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doing another causes pleasure to only 10, the first act is seen as morally correct.

After all criteria are added, the act that brings about the most points (most pleasure) will be seen as morally right.

Transplantation is the removal one of organ from an organism, and placing it into another.

There are 3 types of organ transplantation that I will examine, which are Live Donor (from a living person), Cadaver (from a dead person) and Xenotransplantation (from an animal).

Live Donor transplantation –

Bentham agrees with Live Donor transplantation, whether the donor able to give consent or not. If the donor volunteers to donate an organ, Bentham would believe that if everything goes quickly and correctly, the pleasure will be felt soon (remoteness), will happen (certainty) and will be greatly felt (intensity) by the receiver, because it will allow him/her to lead a better life and be happy. This will also be true for the donor as s/he will know that they did a good deed saving someone’s life. If there are no side effects, the pleasure will have a longer duration if it keeps reproducing itself (fecundity) and remain a pleasure (purity). Also, a lot of people will be happy, as both families will be happy, firstly the receivers family, and the donors family due to his generosity.

If the transplantation is motivated by economic reasons, Bentham would still say that it is morally right, as both sides have decided the transaction is for their benefits, therefore creating greatest good for greatest number.

If the transplantation is non-voluntary or involuntary, Bentham would still be for this, as his hedonic calculus would agree as long as it would cause greatest good for the greatest number, even if donor would not have a say. (Pleasure of the receiver and his family must heavily outweigh the pain by the donor and his family for the transaction to be morally right, as the number of people affected is critical in Bentham’s reasoning).

Cadaver Transplantation –

For this to work in Bentham’s eyes, to produce the greatest happiness, consent is important. Even though the donor is dead, and would not feel anything, most of the pain would be felt by the donors family, but also if incident appears in the news, other people may feel anguish and fear that after death their organs may be stolen or used without consent. Therefore for this to be morally right, the number of people that gain pleasure from the act must outweigh the number of people that gain pain, and all the criterions on the hedonic calculus must be added to choose the right act. The circumstance must also be taken into point, as the pain of mutilating a dead relative could never be changed, therefore the pain would keep on producing (fecundity) and remain a pain (purity). However, if family would never know about the transfer of organs, the pain may not be felt whilst the pleasure would (remoteness), the pain would not happen due to family not knowing (certainty), but if they did, it would be greatly felt (intensity).

Lastly, Bentham is for xenotransplantation, as it would create the greatest good for greatest number of humans, and is therefore morally correct. As the pleasure will be felt soon (remoteness), will definitely happen (certainty) and will be greatly felt (intensity) by the receiver, it should be pursued as it will allow for better life thus more happiness presuming the pleasure will keep in producing (fecundity) and remaining a pleasure (purity). The families would also be happy at the wellbeing of the recipient (quantity).

Bentham would most likely not consider an animal’s pain in his Hedonic Calculus, but even if he did, the intensity of the animal’s pain would not outweigh the intensity of the human’s pleasure, this is as humans have a higher level on consciousness and can reflect upon the pleasure. Also, the quantity affected for the animal is a lot less, rather than by the receiver’s family.

Overall , Bentham believes that organ transplantation is correct, from humans dead or alive, voluntary or not, and from animals, as long as the greatest good for the greatest number principle is followed, and the maximisation of pleasure is followed, using his Hedonic Calculus.

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