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Defending The Innocent Essay

1106 words - 5 pages

Sidney Farber’s injection of folic acid into leukemic children without sure knowledge of the effects nearly killed the patients. Utilitarians would regard his actions as the right actions to take considering that if Farber did not attempt to cure the disease, the kids would most likely die anyway like many before them did. My argument contradicts with this utilitarian thinking due to the unethical nature of Farber’s actions that endangered the innocent against their will. By not giving informed consent, the actions by Farber at that time were highly unethical as there was no assurance of the results of his experiments. Later on, in the lives of the majority, happiness is maximized because Farber did end up. However, at the time, it is highly unethical and erroneous for anyone, utilitarian or not, to refuse informed consent to innocent people and put them at harms risk with the possibility that their sacrifice may be in vain.
Hurting the few that Farber injects and lowering their happiness led to more happiness later on for other leukemic patients who then have a solution to their disease, therefore maximizing happiness for more members of society in the event that more people do not die. Utilitarians, with this thought in their minds, would say that Farber’s decision was correct and that these sacrifices were necessary as pleasure for those that overcame the disease overweighed the pain from those initially injected for experimentation. In my opinion, the problem with this theory is connected with the question if Farber’s injections didn’t lead to a cure to cancer. Then negative utilitarianism increases, as pain overpowers pleasure. The criticism that utilitarianism ignores is justice. Innocent children would have given their lives for a doctor who attempted to increase happiness for greater population. In this sense, utilitarianism does not seem right for this argument when looked at from an ethical point of view at the time of the injections. This argument is supported by the reasoning that as humans, to perform high risk experimentation on innocent children who utilitarianism says should suffer for the greater good is absolutely wrong and refutes the common intuition that hurting the innocent is wrong in almost all circumstances. Many believe it is only ethical to kill, whether they are innocent or pose as a threat, if the reason is self-defense and one’s own life in immediate danger. In Farber’s situation, he lacks ethics because his actions defy the contract theory, which states that he is defying the “agreements that the members of a rational society would choose.” Also, I believe his actions should be highly frowned upon at the time of the injections due to his lack of virtue ethics. Compassion is lost in his quest for the cure to leukemia as seen when the children actually lost their lives to his experiment and did not even know what went into their bodies. When seeing the situation from the time of injection, all ethics were ignored...

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