Ethical theories are based on the previously explained ethical principles. They each emphasize different aspects of an ethical dilemma and lead to the most ethically correct resolution according to the guidelines within the ethical theory itself. People usually base their individual choice of ethical theory upon their life experiences (1,2). Deontology
The deontological theory states that people should adhere to their obligations and duties when analyzing an ethical dilemma. This means that a person will follow his or her obligations to another individual or society because upholding one's duty is what is considered ethically correct (1,2). For instance, a deontologist will always keep his promises to a friend and will follow the law. A person who follows this theory will produce very consistent decisions since they will be based on the individual's set duties. Deontology provides a basis for special duties and obligations to specific people, such as those within one's family. For example, an older brother may have an obligation to protect his little sister when they cross a busy road together. This theory also praises those deontologists who exceed their duties and obligations, which is called "supererogation" (1). For example, if a person hijacked a train full of students and stated that one person would have to die in order for the rest to live, the person who volunteers to die is exceeding his or her duty to the other students and performs an act of supererogation. Although deontology contains many positive attributes, it also contains its fair number of flaws. One weakness of this theory is that there is no rationale or logical basis for deciding an individual's duties. For instance, businessman may decide that it is his duty to always be on time to meetings. Although this appears to be a noble duty we do not know why the person chose to make this his duty. Perhaps the reason that he has to be at the meeting on time is that he always has to sit in the same chair. A similar scenario unearths two other faults of deontology including the fact that sometimes a person's duties conflict, and that deontology is not concerned with the welfare of others. For instance, if the deontologist who must be on time to meetings is running late, how is he supposed to drive? Is the deontologist supposed to speed, breaking his duty to society to uphold the law, or is the deontologist supposed to arrive at his meeting late, breaking his duty to be on time? This scenario of conflicting obligations does not lead us to a clear ethically correct resolution nor does it protect the welfare of others from the deontologist's decision. Since deontology is not based on the context of each situation, it does not provide any guidance when one enters a complex situation in which there are conflicting obligations (1,2). Utilitarianism
The utilitarian ethical theory is founded on the ability to predict the consequences of an action. To a utilitarian, the choice that yields the greatest benefit to the most people is the choice that is ethically correct. One benefit of this ethical theory is that the utilitarian can compare similar predicted solutions and use a point system to determine which choice is more beneficial for more people. This point system provides a logical and rationale argument for each decision and allows a person to use it on a case-by-case context (1,2). There are two types of utilitarianism, act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism adheres exactly to the definition of utilitarianism as described in the above section. In act utilitarianism, a person performs the acts that benefit the most people, regardless of personal feelings or the societal constraints such as laws. Rule utilitarianism, however, takes into account the law and is concerned with fairness. A rule utilitarian seeks to benefit the most people but through the fairest and...