Ethical Theories and Study Guide for Midterm Exam
Virtue Ethics – The right thing to do is to act in accordance with virtue, to do whatever a virtuous person would do. It is important to develop virtues like compassion, honesty, loyalty and patience through education, effort and copying role models. (see page 906).
These virtues are the mean (the correct, middle amount) between the extremes of excess and deficiency. For example: The virtue of compassion is the virtuous middle ground between too much compassion which would make one a sap and too little compassion which would make one cold. The virtue of courage is the mean between the extremes of being rash (too much) and being cowardly (too little). Aristotle (who originally authored this view, although your text doesn’t mention him) says that the right thing to do is to cultivate the right amount of these qualities – not too much, not too little. As your book does mention, the assumption is that virtuous people will usually do the right thing when faced with an ethical dilemma. Virtue ethics is different from the other theories that we have studied in that it focuses on whether or not the agent (person) is being ethical as opposed to whether or not the action is ethical. Aristotle is more concerned with someone’s developing a consistently virtuous character than whether or not a person does a few virtuous acts. When making an argument using this theory, you need to tell me which virtues would be relevant (see the lists on the top left of page 907 and the right of 906 for possibilities) – then you need to say what the virtuous thing would be in that case – what would it mean to act loyally in that circumstance; how about with determination, with compassion, etc.
Take a minute to think about whether or not there are virtues that you think someone in the healthcare professions is morally obliged to develop. What are they? Can someone be taught to be compassionate?
Care Ethics – The right thing to do is whatever takes into account the "complexities of the particular situation in which a moral problem has occurred. It requires a deep and detailed understanding of the people and their interests and feelings. Only then is it possible to resolve the problem in a way that is sensitive to the needs of everyone," (p.909). The right thing to do is then whatever takes these needs into account and resolves the issue in a way that respects and preserves the relationships.
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