Utilitarian Case Study

Topic: Medical Ethics
Words: 1119 Pages: 4

Health professionals are sometimes faced with difficult moral and ethical dilemmas presenting challenges in the decision-making process. Utilitarian theory helps them consider different factors and support the making of the most justifiable decision. It suggests that an action is right only if it promotes pleasure or happiness, and wrong in case it is associated with pain or unhappiness. This theory encourages making decisions or taking actions that will do the most good and benefit the highest number of people (Gawronski & Beer, 2017). This paper evaluates the situation of three liver recipients to determine the most appropriate one for the transplant based on the utilitarian theory.

In this case, John Terry, the lead surgeon for the liver transplant, has three patient on the most-urgent list who needs the organ since they are likely to die in the next month. Although they are all in need, the available organs are only enough for one person. This implies that a quick decision has to be made regarding the most appropriate and justifiable candidate to receive it. According to utilitarianism, the outcomes of the action justify whether it is good (Helzer et al., 2017). This means the surgeon should focus on the outcome of the action to determine the priority patient to receive the liver. Since “the end justifies the means”, it is necessary to consider factors such as the compatibility of the organ, the number of people likely to benefit when the patient survives, and the patient’s potential in supporting others (Gawronski & Beer, 2017). The challenging decision requires a sound mind and strong skills to attain the best outcome based on the situation.

The utilitarian approach would influence the consideration of patient B for the transplant. The wellness of the 34-year-old patient is likely to field the greatest benefit to most people since the cancer research would receive more donations from her father. Financial assistance would improve the capabilities of the institution and enable it to serve many people. Moreover, the father has promised to finance the development of a new pediatric wing that is likely to offer health services to thousands of people annually. The establishment of the facility would create employment for many people including nurses, doctors, cleaners, and administrators (Gawronski & Beer, 2017). This implies that the facility will support a large number of households both directly and indirectly. It will also form a source of revenue for the government through paying taxes and play a role in the economic advancement for the benefit of the community.

Patient B is the most appropriate person to receive the liver because she is compatible and her health is likely to improve. She does not have any history or risk of relapse implying that the transplant is likely to be successful. Donating the organ to her would satisfy the requirement of the utilitarian theory since it would lead to pleasure and happiness not only for the immediate family and friends but also for many people seeking health care services. Her recovery would translate to improved health care services to the community since his father is determined to support the health sector greatly (Helzer et al., 2017). This implies that Terry should not hesitate in selecting her as the preferred patient for the medical procedure.

The family of recipient A would be happy in case their member is considered for the transplant to enable him to continue supporting them. However, he could only benefit his family and help the small credit union survive from failing. This means limited people who are close to him would gain from the transplant. Moreover, the struggling union may take too long to grow suggesting it is unlikely to add value to the lives of other people apart from his family members.

The medical history indicates that recipient A had relapsed many times, which can compromise the success of the medical procedure. Based on the limited number of people who can benefit and increased chances of failure, Terry should not consider this recipient for the liver transplant. Since “the end justifies the means” in utilitarianism, it is not the best decision to give the organ to this patient (Helzer et al., 2017). It is necessary to consider another person with better chances of success who can extend greater benefits to the community.

Benji, recipient C has many opportunities in his life apart from his interest in becoming a doctor to offer health services to the community. The recipient is also attaining recommendable grades in college showing that he has a bright future ahead of him. Since he is only 19, the recipient can help transform the lives of many people and take executive positions in the health sector. Unfortunately, his health records show that his body would reject the liver and eventually die. Giving the organ to this patient would be against the expectations of the utilitarian theory since the outcome of every action should be justifiable and beneficial (Helzer et al., 2017). It would not make sense to donate the essential organ to a person whose body would reject it, particularly when it was required to save the life of another patient.

The recipient is too young and does not have a family depending on him. He has no children or wife to suffer his death implying that fewer people would be affected. According to the utilitarian theory, actions with the greatest benefits should be considered. In this case, the action would have limited or no benefits because the liver cannot work in his body and there is no one to mourn his death. Conducting a transplant to the recipient would only increase the cost of treatment because of the additional medical procedures. The utilitarian theory encourages Terry not to bother giving the organ to the recipient since no benefits would be achieved.

In conclusion, Terry must make a justifiable decision regarding the most appropriate candidate for the liver transplant on the hospital’s most urgent list. The three patients would lose their lives within the next month if the transplant were not conducted. Utilitarian theory can help evaluate them and determine the one who can bring the greatest benefits and support the largest number of people. Recipient B comes from a wealthy family that has been donating huge volumes of money to the hospital’s cancer research program. Since the father has promised to offer more donations upon the recovery of his daughter, choosing the young woman would bring a beneficial impact on the facility and health sector. The decision would be in line with the requirement of the utilitarian theory because the outcome would justify the means and bring happiness not only to the family but also to the hospital and eventually to the community.


Gawronski, B., & Beer, J. S. (2017). What makes moral dilemma judgments “utilitarian” or “deontological”? Social Neuroscience, 12(6), 626-632. Web.

Helzer, E. G., Fleeson, W., Furr, R. M., Meindl, P., & Barranti, M. (2017). Once a utilitarian, consistently a utilitarian? Examining principledness in moral judgment via the robustness of individual differences. Journal of Personality, 85(4), 505-517. Web.

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