The Superior Ethics Theory in Medical Contexts

Subject: Medical Ethics
Pages: 4
Words: 1138
Reading time:
5 min


Decisions making is one of the activities constantly undertaken by professionals in the health care sector. Unlike in most of the other fields, these professionals sometimes do not have the time or resources necessary to deliberate on the action to take. To assist in this task of decision-making, health care professionals rely on Ethical theories. There are a number of well-established ethical theories that can be applied in various contexts. However, the worth of the decision reached depends on the Ethical Theory applied to the particular context. This paper will argue that the Kantian Ethic theory is superior to other theories in medical contexts. To support this statement, the paper will explain Kant’s theory and proceed to demonstrate how Kantian Ethics offer the best decision procedures for the most favorable outcomes when compared to the other major ethical theories.

Kant’s Theory

Kant’s theory of categorical imperative asserts that duty is the basis of all moral actions and as such, the emphasis when decisions are being made is on the assumed duty of the actor. In this theory, the rules always take primacy over the consequences. Burch (2009) contends that the only right action in Kantian ethics is the one that follows the rules irrespective of the action’s consequences. The underlying rationale behind Kant’s theory is that individuals cannot be expected to make rational decisions all the time. Decisions by humans can be clouded by emotions, which may cause irrational decisions to be made. On the other hand, the rules remain constant and they can be depended upon to provide the best course of action at all times.

Kantian Ethics Theory is the most applicable in the medical context for a number of reasons. Health care professionals often have a set of well-established controls that help them in their everyday operations. For example, standardized steps for structured processes are used to ensure that best practices are followed and the highest quality of service offered to the patient. The Kantian Ethics theory supports the following of rules and procedures at all times. Use of Kantian Ethics Theory will also ensure that the most rational decision is chosen in spite of the medical professional’s personal bias.

Analysis of Ethical Theories

Utilitarian theory stipulates that the welfare of the majority overrides the priority and rights of the individual. Applying this theory in a medical context might lead to many disastrous results. For example, when deciding on who should be given a kidney transplant, utilitarianism would require the doctor to select the candidate who plays a more significant role in society since the aim is to maximize the happiness of the majority. Such decisions would go against the principle of justice, which all players in the medical profession are required to abide by. Utilitarianism would also give the medical profession the discretion to go against the principle of respect of autonomy when the patient makes a decision that is not beneficial to the greatest number of people. On the other hand, Kantian ethics would ensure that the principle of justice is observed at all times. In the kidney transplant dilemma, Kantian ethics would require the doctor to follow the set procedures for selecting the next candidate with complete disregard for the socioeconomic status of the candidates available. Kantian ethics would also require the doctor to respect the autonomy of the patient since the rules say so.

Virtue Ethics is a theory that emphasizes on goodness rather than rights, duties or obligations. This theory is characterized by being agent centered, rather than act centered. The rightness of an action is determined by the virtuous motives of the perpetrator or at least the lack of a vicious motive in undertaking the action (Liezl 2009). From the very definition of Virtue Ethics, it is clear that it does not define what constitutes a right action. Weiss (2008) notes that a major flaw in Virtue Ethics is that it does not specify the kind of actions that should be taken but rather emphasizes on the kind of person we ought to be. Applying Virtue Ethics in the medical context would be disastrous since it would lead to many inconsistencies due to the diversity of character among health care professionals. To begin with, medical practitioners would not be held accountable for any malpractice as long as their motivations in engaging in the actions were good or at least not malicious. A nurse who overdoses a patient on morphine with the intention of reducing the patient’s pain would be excused under the Virtue ethics since his/her intentions were good. Kantian Ethics would be more appropriate since it would require the best medical practices to be followed at all times therefore giving the patient the best chance of recovering.

Ross’s Ethics declares that the moral principles are self-evident to any normal person and a notion of moral intuition therefore exists. This internal perception helps us to discover the correct moral principles and apply them correctly (Pojman & Fieser, 2011). However, Ross argues that some people are better perceivers than others and as such, the moral convictions of thoughtful people are the data of ethics. Ross’s ethics do not see obligations as absolute and exception-less (Pojman & Fieser, 2011). As such, a medical practitioner may be allowed to act against the set rules if he/she deems the situation as an exception. This room for deviation from rules might be catastrophic in the medical context. The health care provider might decide to go against the established procedure due to a personal conviction that the procedure is wrong. Such a decision might harm the patient and expose the medical practitioner to lawsuits. Following Kant’s Ethics will avoid such eventualities since the rules in place will always be followed. Ross’s ethics contended that in all decision making, we are taking a “moral risk”. Such an approach is not suitable in a medical context where the actor needs to be certain that their decision is the best. If a doctor or nurse always perceives his/her actions to be a moral risk, he/she might end up second-guessing himself with dire consequences.


This paper set out to argue that Kantian Ethics theory is the most applicable theory in a medical context. It began by acknowledging that ethics theory play a significant role in ensuring that health care professionals arrive at the best decisions. It then proceeded to discuss Kantian ethics and its applicability in the health care setting. The paper has demonstrated that Kantian Ethics is the most appropriate since it ensures that the principles of operation in the medical framework; respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice are upheld in all decisions. From this paper, it is evident that Kantian Ethics theory is the most appropriate to aid in the decision-making efforts of the medical professionals who deal with complex and time sensitive environment.


Burch, A.H. (2009). What’s Right? : Social ethics choices and applications. Cambridge: AuthorHouse.

Liezl, Z. (2009). Agent-based Virtue Ethics and the Problem of Action Guidance. Journal of Moral Philosophy, 6(1), 50–69.

Pojman, P.L. & Fieser, J. (2011). Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong. NY: Cengage Learning.

Weiss, J. (2008). Business Ethics: A Stakeholder and Issues Management Approach. NY: Cengage Learning, 2008.