Essay on The Obligation to Know

Submitted By yinyang2
Words: 785
Pages: 4

PHIL 340 – Medical Ethics
November 6, 2012

The Obligation to Know Not all cases in the medical field are clear and obvious. More often than not, there is some sort of moral dilemma. In the case of Huntington’s Disease, a genetic and inherited neuromuscular disorder, there is a screening test for a genetic marker for the disorder. The moral issue associated with this test is the question of whether or not a person should, or ought to, take the test so they can plan his or her life effectively and tell their spouse or offspring. Working with Aristotle’s virtue ethics, it is my opinion that any and every person has an obligation to know their family history and the possibilities of passing any disease or disorder on to any children they might have. If that means getting tested for a disorder, then that person should do so. Huntington’s Disease is an inherited neuromuscular disorder that “typically appears without warning” (Sherlock and Morrey 616-617) between the ages of thirty-five to forty-five. This disorder “involves the increasing inability to control the body” (Sherlock and Morrey 616-617) and, fifteen years later, leads to death. “In the 1980s, a screening test” (Sherlock and Morrey 616-617) was developed to detect the genetic marker of Huntington’s. So, given that there is a screening test for Huntington’s, should individuals have an obligation to know this information? Knowing this information, they could plan for the future of both themselves and their loved ones and be prepared for what they would face. Also, if an individual knows that he or she has the disease, ought he or she tell his or her spouse before marriage and children? Aristotle’s virtue ethics is concerned with the best way to live a flourishing life, or a life worth living. He took a scientific approach when trying to find which character traits would lead to the best life. Aristotle thought that humans and three main excellences: intellectual virtues (excellences of pure reason), moral virtues (use of reason well to control emotions and desires), and physical health. The way we get these virtues, other than taking good physical care of ourselves, is through teaching and learning and practice to develop good habits and dispositions. There are three questions that a virtue ethicist would ask about medical dilemmas. The first question is which action would a person of good character do? Good characters have good character traits like being courageous, just, compassionate, etc. Secondly, how will this action influence people’s characters/dispositions? Lastly, which actions or character traits will best contribute to a life worth living? If a person could figure out the correct answers to each of these questions, then the decision they had made would be the best decision (Aristotle, 196-227). In the case of Huntington’s Disease, there is a simple screening test that can tell a person whether or not they are at risk of the disease or if they have the…