Deontology and Utilitarianism: Ethical Theories for Nurses Ethics is not a concept that is thought about often, but it is practiced on a daily basis. Even while unconscious of the fact, people consider ethics while making every choice in life. There are many theories to which people allude, but two radically different theories that are sometimes practiced are deontology and utilitarianism. Deontology deals with actions in a situation while utilitarianism examines the consequences of those actions. While polar opposites on the broad spectrum of ethics, deontology and utilitarianism are bioethical theories that can be applied to nursing practice and personal life situations.
Kant’s Deontology German philosopher Immanuel Kant popularized
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In other words, an act must be able to be applied to all situations to be seen as acceptable. Like the Golden Rule, a person should not perform an act that he would not want done to himself such as infidelity, lying, or stealing. While most consider these examples to be negative behaviors, is it safe to say that these should be an absolute? Kant stated that for an action to be considered moral, it had to be an absolute truth (Johnson, 2008). With Kant, if a parent told a child that Santa was real, which technically is a lie, or if someone lied about a surprise birthday party, it would be considered a horrible act.
On the other hand, utilitarianism, or teleology, consists of the concept that an action or deed is weighed by the amount of goodness or happiness it produces (Rich & Butts, 2014). Basically, no action or rule is considered morally wrong or right until it is weighted against the amount of pleasure it created. Where deontology focused on the action of a situation, teleology is primarily concerned with the consequences of the action. One of its famous promoters, Jeremy Bentham, theorized that situations were gauged on the pleasure it produced and that all pleasure was the same. Later, another theorist, John Stewart Mills, argued that not all pleasure was the same, but that there are actually different levels of pleasure to be attained in life (Rich & Butts, 2014). As an example, humans and animals have different