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Ethics and The Uninsured

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Use the following ethical & philosophical systems below to define an ethical approach to providing medical care to the uninsured.

Kantian Ethics - First Principles
Natural Law -Teleological Ethics - Purpose and Nature of Things
Utilitarianism or Consequential Ethics - Outcomes are Determinative
Relativism - It all depends on Frame of Reverence
Existentialism or Freedom Ethic - Not what we do, but who we become - Principle of Autonomy
Theory of Justice - Rawls - Distributive Justice

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Please see response below, including some supporting articles for further research and reading.


1. Use the following ethical & philosophical systems below to define an ethical approach to providing medical care to the uninsured.

My understanding is that this question is asking you to apply each of the following ethical & philosophical systems to justify a health care policy for providing medical care to the uninsured. Let's take a closer look through describing the theory first and then applying the principle(s) of the theory to the scenario.

1. Kantian Ethics - First Principles

Kant's notion of the good will and the categorical imperative are briefly sketched in the attached resource. Kant believes only actions performed for the sake of duty have moral worth. He seems to suggest that the greater one's disinclination to act for the sake of duty, the greater the moral worth of the action. If one performs an action by inclination alone, then that action has no moral worth. Duty is the necessity of acting out of reverence for universal law. Moral value is essentially established by the intention of the person acting (Maxim, Hypothetical Imperative, Categorical Imperative and Practical Imperative - see the attached resource for a definition of each duty).

This scenario does not seem to be a categorical principle - a Universal Law such as thou shalt not kill. It seems to be justified best through applying Kant's practical imperative. Please read the overview the attached resource (e.g. Kantian Ethics.doc).

Application to this scenario: (e.g. providing and ethical approach to providing medical care to the uninsured)

Based on Kantian ethics of Practical Imperative Principle, it is right to provide medical care to the uninsured to: "Act to treat humanity, whether yourself or another, as an end-in-itself and never as a means." Negatively, then, it would be wrong to NOT provide medical care to the uninsured because it would violate the Practical Imperative by treating humanity as a means to an end by providing medical care based purely on the financial gains to the health care system and the patient's ability to pay for treatment and care (means to an end). That is, the don't use people in order to obtain your goals (e.g., medical care that brings in financial reward) or seek an edge or unfair advantage. People have rights, which would supersede, for example, the tyranny of the majority in utilitarianism (Practical Imperative) (Source: http://philosophy.lander.edu/ethics/kant.html).

2. Natural Law -Teleological Ethics - Purpose and Nature of Things

Let's look at an overview of Normative Theory of Ethics, to locate teleological ethics in the larger scheme of ethical theory. However, it is also important to understand that not all theorists agree to the classification scheme as seen below (Natural Law ethics is classified as both deontological and teleological, and sometimes classified as the methodology in its own class).
First, Teleological Ethics is classified as normative ethical systems. In fact, normative ethical systems can generally be broken down into three categories: deontological, teleological and virtue ethics. For example, the first two are considered deontic or action-based theories of morality because they focus entirely upon the actions, which a person performs.

· Teleological or consequential ethics: When actions are judged morally right based upon their consequences, we have teleological or consequentiality ethical theory (e.g., what should I do, based on the consequences of the action? or What should I do based on the Natural Universal Laws, as in this question? Note, as mentioned above, some argue that Natural Law ethics is both teleological and deontological, and perhaps in health care it should be a distinct category of its own).

· Deontological ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the main tenets of the six ethical & philosophical systems (Kantian, Natural Law, Utilitarianism or Consequential, Relativism, Existentialism or Freedom Ethic, and Theory of Justice) and then applies each theory to define an ethical approach to provide medical care to the uninsured.