The Schiavos, Rule Utilitarianism, and Kantian Ethics

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Rui Chaves
The Schiavos, Rule Utilitarianism, and Kantian Ethics
The case of “The Schiavos” is focused primarily on one member of the family, which is Terri Schiavo. Terri had been in a coma for 13 years. Although, “no one is completely sure what happened but the best guess is she suffered a heart attack” (Pierce, 64) presumably caused by her bulimia. Due to the severity of her heart attack, it left Terri with severe brain damaged which in turn left her in a persistent vegetative state which leaves a person showing no awareness of one’s environment. Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, contended that there was no hope for Terri to recover and that he felt it was his wife's wish that she not be kept alive through life support. Michael Schiavo wanted her feeding tube removed, after which Terri would slowly die. The parents of Terri however, felt that Terri “should be fed indefinitely” (Pierce, 64). Thus, creating a moral battle between her parents, and her husband as to whether or not Terri Schiavo should continue to live in her vegetative state. When a choice is made, often the question is asked: "was it the right decision"? For thousands of years, humans have struggled with the idea of the morality of their actions. This has resulted in a large number of belief systems regarding the nature of actions. In the system of Utilitarianism, the ends justify the means, and actions are judged on the results, not on the intentions or motives. On the other hand, the direct opposite of the Utilitarian ideal, is Immanuel Kant and his Kantian Ethics. For Kant, the end results were not important in determining whether an action was just or not. Motive was everything to him, and he had very strict views on how to judge the morality of an action. Both Utilitarianism and Kantian Ethics can be applied to the case of The Schiavos. In society these days, Utilitarianism is the name of the game. The basic philosophy of Utilitarianism, the idea of the greatest good for the greatest...
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