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Defending the Innocent

Satisfactory Essays
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 li...

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... procedures and there is less happiness and more pain if people die due to these injections knowing the fact that the doctor has no clear proof that this will surely contribute to a cure to cancer. It could just be another trial by another crazed doctor, so the entire procedure would be immoral for any utilitarian because it does not maximize happiness. Without knowing the result Farber’s injections, the rule to always give consent could result in more pain than pleasure if patients refused the treatment due to the high risk of death. The rule to say it is okay to refuse informed consent because more people will go through with the injections and make advances for a wider range of people is invalid too as they are not certain a cure will certainly be found. No rule should be applied to this situation because whichever rule that is decided upon will be contradicted.
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