Thursday, March 24, 2016

Utilitarian and deontological ethics in medicine

 2016 Jan-Jun;6(1):5-7. doi: 10.4103/2229-5070.175024.

Utilitarian and deontological ethics in medicine.

Author information

  • 1Department of Microbiology, PSG Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.


Medical ethics is a sensible branch of moral philosophy and deals with conflicts in obligations/duties and their potential outcome. Two strands of thought exist in ethics regarding decision-making: deontological and utilitarian. In deontological approach, outcomes/consequences may not just justify the means to achieve it while in utilitarian approach; outcomes determine the means and greatest benefit expected for the greatest number. In brief, deontology is patient-centered, whereas utilitarianism is society-centered. Although these approaches contradict each other, each of them has their own substantiating advantages and disadvantages in medical practice. Over years, a trend has been observed from deontological practice to utilitarian approach leading to frustration and discontentment. Health care system and practitioners need to balance both these ethical arms to bring congruity in medical practice.

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