Philosophy: Morality and Operating Table Essay

Submitted By kiratsoug
Words: 779
Pages: 4

You are the assistant to a surgeon in an operating room where you both are performing a life-threatening heart surgery. At the same time, in the operating room next to hers, her husband is undergoing a seemingly routine procedure. Midway through her procedure, the surgeon asks you to check on her husband. When you do so, the doctors performing his procedure alert you to a unseen complication and unfortunately, his sudden death. Left to relay the news, you choose to lie to the surgeon, knowing her anger and sadness would not allow her to finish her own procedure calmly, collectedly, or effectively.

While lying is fundamentally morally corrupt, choosing to lie in this situation would be following a type of moral reasoning called utilitarianism, a moral principle that holds that the morally right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over harms for everyone affected. As long as a course of action produces the maximum benefits for everyone, utilitarianism does not care whether the benefits are yielded by lies, manipulation, or coercion. The example above is a situation in which lying could be absolved using principles provided by Mill. To discover what we should do, we must first distinguish the various courses of action we could take. Secondly, determine all the benefits and harms that would result from each course, for everyone affected by the action. Lastly, taking a utilitarian approach, we must weigh the benefits and the costs and choose the course of action that provides the greatest benefits for the greatest number of people.

Were the surgeon made fully aware of her husband’s passing, she would presumably move into a state of panic. This emotional distress leads to unstable choices in the operating room, which could hurt (rather than help) the patient on her operating table. If she injures the patient on her operating table because of her grief, her grief becomes twofold; a, from the death of her husband, and b, from the death of her patient. And so being exposed to the facts of the situation, the truth would cause the surgeon greater pain than is already involved in the situation. Here, the stakeholders are the patient, the patient’s family, and the hospital. Because the patient could potentially lose his/her life, his/her family would suffer grief as well. The hospital is also a stakeholder because the work of a doctor reflects upon the reputation of the hospital- if a patient dies by the careless hands of a surgeon, it reflects negatively on the hospital as a whole. In essence, by telling the truth about her husband’s death to the surgeon, another life could be potentially be lost, a family could suffer unnecessarily, and the hospital could receive negative media attention and even possibly a lawsuit.

The other option, lying to her, saves the life of the patient on her operating table and obliterates any potential familial grief or negative impact on the hospital that would stem from the…