Medical legal and ethics
1.) Compare and contrast “ethics”, “laws”, and “morals”. Why do we study ethics?
2.) I often talk of ethics in the following way… “The solutions to today’s ethical dilemmas are not as important to today’s issues as they are to the unforeseen issues that will arise in the future as a result of those decisions of today.” What do you think I mean by this? Give an example of an ethical decision of the past that has caused more ethical dilemmas we face today.
The following information is not supported by your course professor or Western Carolina University. This discussion is to explore current topics in medical ethics. ALL VIEWS ARE WELCOME AND IMPORTANT AS LONG AS WRITTEN SCHOLARLY AND WITH RESPECT TO ALL OTHERS IN THE COURSE AND PROFESSOR. Initially you will be moved to respond out of emotion… please refrain from responding so quickly. Take some time to react emotionally, but then think about the situations intellectually.
Dr. Peter Singer, a Princeton University Bioethicist, has caused great controversy in his ideas on infanticide and abortion. It should be noted that, in the halls of higher learning at the academically famous colleges and Universities around the world he has great support. The following opinions are paraphrased from his two books, Rethinking Life and Death (1996) and Practical Ethics (1980).
Dr. Singer argues that humans are the only animal species where it is not considered “socially acceptable” to terminate the lives of their young if either the young is not “healthy” enough to survive on its own or the parents (for lack of a better word) feel incapable or unwilling to raise the off-spring. In his argument, he states that it is his opinion that an “infant” is not a person because it lacks the characteristics necessary for personhood; “rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness (Singer, 1980).” He goes on to say, “killing a newborn is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living (Singer, 1980).” His position is that the child has no sense of self, no opinion of living or dying, and is not able to survive on its own. Dr. Singer believes that abortion should be legalized and morally permissible, as well as infanticide(which is euthanasia of an infant until the age of 2). He feels that these should be permissible if the parent(s) do not wish to take on the parental responsibilities, the fetus or infant is deemed unhealthy, or the parents have the feeling that raising the child would be socially, financially, or physically detrimental to the parent(s) or family units well-being. The child, in Dr. Singer’s view, is incapable of having an opinion or drive to live on its own. He believes that its level of personhood is not significant enough to outweigh the parent’s desire for termination:(a) the parents understand the difficulties in raising a child, (b) parents have an appreciation of the physical or mental pain involved for either parent or child in light of a terminal or debilitating illness (if that is the reason for the desire to terminate the life), or (c) an “insignificant life” is not more important than the adult choice to not be a parent.
Of course, he cites added reasons to support his views as the anticipated decline to the number of families living in poverty, the drop in the number of homeless and malnourished living on our streets and in our shelters, and a decrease the overall numbers of children causing overcrowding in schools and government assistance programs as a result of the drop in population.
(3a) Given this first part of an overview of Dr. Singer’s views (yes, there is more to come), what do you think of his ideas and why? Please remember to be educated in your response, as well as emotional (if you must)?
(3b) Do you agree or disagree that there might be a possible “improvement” to the economy and the numbers of those on governmental assistance programs??
Dr. Singer has been known to talk about how expensive health care is and the sad state of the Unites States’ organ transplant program. He argues in his books and teachings, and correctly I might add (only in the following statement), that many individuals die waiting on organs to become available. He also points out that these people are often on governmental assistance programs for their health and home care needs. Dr. Singer’s solution is quite simple…
There are THOUSANDS of terminally ill or disabled children with life expectancies less than 5-10 years of age. Singer argues that if the government is paying for the children to receive care (and by care meaning medications, health care costs, home health support, etc.) through the end of their short lives, then the government should be allowed to keep a database of transplant information for each. If a match is found that makes them a good candidate for donating organs to someone on the transplant registry, the government should have the right to harvest those organs needed for transplant into another individual whom the government is ALSO paying for care (medications, hospital and health care costs, and home health support, etc.). He argues that the government is paying to “care and keep alive” TWO SETS of individuals who are not going to survive long in their present conditions. One group (the transplant recipient) could survive and even thrive on their own (without governmental dollars or contributing any longer to the high cost of medical care) if the organs are received from the younger donor. He questions why should the government (your tax dollars) pay for two groups of people when they could significantly reduce the total number of those being supported by using the terminally ill children to heal the others who just need an organ? Dr. Singer also says that it is quite probable that the overall cost of health care would go down to reasonable levels due to the decrease in dollars needed to be recovered by the government from tax payers like you and I.
(4a) What do you think of Dr. Singer’s views and why?
(4b) Looking at the situation from an economical level, knowing the cost of health care and the cost of governmental programs to support these two sets of patients, does his questioning hold any validity?
(4c) He argues that the government should have a “right” to those organs since the government is fitting the bill… But, how does that play into consent issues of the parents? Should they have a say? Why or why not?