Applied Ethical Theory Essay Example: Utilitarianism

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Sewanee University of the South
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Utilitarianism is measured to be an ethical theory that states that the best actions of a person are those that maximize utility CITATION How11 \l 1033 (Schiffman, 2011). The theory was founded by Jeremy Bentham. According to Bentham, the utility is the summation of all forms of pleasure, which results from peoples actions, less the suffering of the people that are involved in the action CITATION How11 \l 1033 (Schiffman, 2011). This essay will provide a discussion of the utilitarianism theory in respect to three contemporary issues of euthanasia, abortion, as well as sexual morality.

Discussion of Whether the Theory is Consequential or Non-consequential

The utilitarianism theory is a good example of consequentialism. The term consequentialism is employed to characterize the class of normative ethical theories that hold that the consequences of a persons conduct should be employed as the ultimate basis for any judgment. This is with respect to the rightness as well as the wrongness of that particular conduct. Additionally, unlike other kinds of consequentialism like egoism, the theory of utilitarianism takes into consideration all forms of interests equally.


The term euthanasia refers to the killing of a person as a way to ease suffering due to the problem of an incurable or painful disease CITATION Fri13 \l 1033 (Henn, Sartorius, Helmchen, & Lauter, 2013). It can be done on persons suffering from an irreversible coma CITATION Dav17 \l 1033 (Jones, Gastmans, & MacKellar, 2017). Infant euthanasia is a contemporary issue that has raised much controversy in different nations. It is also an act considered unlawful or illegal in most nations around the world. Nevertheless, despite euthanasia being a disapproved phenomenon by numerous persons around the world, the reasons for its perpetration can be explained using the theory of utilitarianism.

As per utilitarianism theory, in the clinical context, healthcare practitioners and parents of terminally diseased infants should make the decision to perform euthanasia based on the perceived utility they stand to gain. Additionally, according to the utilitarianism theory, by executing infant euthanasia, parents attain the pleasure of not having to carry the burden of treating their terminally ill infants. Such pleasure can also be attained as a result of the reduced cost burden of treating infant terminal conditions, which can be very expensive. However, according to utilitarianism theory, the parents of the infants going through euthanasia should be ready to less and manage their suffering as a result of the death of their child.


The term abortion is employed to characterize the process of terminating a pregnancy through the act of removing an embryo or fetus CITATION Car17 \l 1033 (Sanger, 2017). It is normally executed before the embryo can be in a position to survive outside a womans uterus. Today, the issue of abortion has attained numerous conflicts between different theorists, with some arguing that is inhumane and others stating that it is necessary to serve the expectant mothers interests. The theory of utilitarianism can be employed to explain why abortion should be employed. The two aspects that should be considered when discussing the utilitarianism theory with respect to abortion is the pleasure gained as well as suffering managed by an individual after perpetrating an abortion.

In this case, the pleasure of a pregnant woman can be in the form of fewer responsibilities of taking care of an unplanned child. This is, particularly, is the expectant woman has no financial resources or assistance from another person to take care of the child. However, the pregnant woman must also be ready to face the suffering of terminating the life of her unborn child. In such a case, the decision to perform an abortion should be made by a pregnant woman if the pleasures or benefits of terminating the pregnancy far outweigh the suffering gained as a result of the act.

Sexual Morality

The phrase sexual morality is employed to characterize the aspect of human sexuality as well as the expression of sexual behavior among humans CITATION Joh111 \l 1033 (Piderit, 2011). Today, in the contemporary society, the issue of sexual morality has become a highly debated topic due to its moral significance in the society. This has been particularly due to the emergence of trends such as participation in sex for pleasure with no social significance in the society. Additionally, the relevance of these sexual morality trends in the society can be explained through the consequential theory of utilitarianism.

Through the utilitarianism theory, the pleasures attained by persons engaging in sex without marriage normally include lack of emotional commitment and sexual enjoyment. Consequently, this has made more people in the society to engage in sex outside of the traditional confines of marriage, which are acts classified as sexual immorality. However, as per the utilitarianism theory, such persons normally face a certain level of suffering due to their sexual immorality. In this case, such suffering is manifested in various ways such as the emergence of human sex trafficking, rape, sex trade, teen and unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases among others.


In conclusion, according to the utilitarianism theory, people perform infant euthanasia to secure pleasures such as having for financial obligations to treat the terminally ill infants, since such treatments can be remarkably expensive. However, parents are also forced to manage sufferings caused by an act of executing infant euthanasia, which in most cases is the grieve of losing a child. Also, according to the utilitarianism theory, people perform an abortion to deliver pleasures or rewards such as having fewer responsibilities of taking care of an unplanned child. This is more so if the expectant woman has no financial resources or assistance from another person to take care of the child. Nevertheless, such persons are also forced to bear the suffering of terminating the life of their unborn children. Lastly, according to the utilitarianism theory, people indulge in sexually immoral behaviors to attain the pleasures such as emotional commitment and sexual enjoyment. Nevertheless, their sexually immoral acts are characterized by sufferings in the form of human sex trafficking, rape, sex trade, teen and unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases among others.

Anecdote from Personal Life Experience

Two months ago, I encountered a scenario where I had to make a decision based on the evaluation of the pleasures and suffering I stood to gain from perpetrating an action. In this case, I had to decide on whether to read for my end of term examination or attend a national football event that was being held at the local stadium. In order to make a viable decision, I decided to employ Benthams utilitarianism theory by considering the pleasures and suffering I would attain from either of the two choices. Upon careful deliberation, I decided to read for my final examination. This is because I would attain benefits such as getting a good grade and having a better chance to attend a good college in the future. Additionally, the suffering I would have endured if I had chosen to attend the football event would have included failing my examinations due to insufficient revision.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Henn, F., Sartorius, N., Helmchen, H., & Lauter, H. (2013). Contemporary Psychiatry. Berlin: Springer Science & Business Media.

Jones, D. A., Gastmans, C., & MacKellar, C. (2017). Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Piderit, J. (2011). Sexual Morality: A Natural Law Approach to Intimate Relationships. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sanger, C. (2017). About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First Century America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Schiffman, H. S. (2011). Green Issues and Debates: An A-to-Z Guide. Washington D.C.: SAGE.



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