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Explain How Utilitarianism Might Be Applied to Embryo Research?

Essay by   •  June 20, 2011  •  Essay  •  899 Words (4 Pages)  •  3,515 Views

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Explain how utilitarianism might be applied to embryo research? (25)

Utilitarianism is teleological and takes the consequences into consideration rather than the action itself, an action is only good if it brings the greatest good for the greatest number. Utilitarniasts believe that human life has no absolute value regardless of the consequences but it takes each individual situation into consideration to see if it brings the greatest good for the greatest number. Circumstances are taken into consideration before making a decision; if the action brings more pleasure then pain according to the hedonic calculus the action is good. Utilitarianism can be applied to embryo research as it takes in consideration the pleasure or pain caused by an action. This is measured by Bentham's hedonic calculus. Bentham's hedonic calculus only works if the person is capable of suffering from pain or can gain happiness. .According to him embryo research can be permitted as embryos aren't capable to suffer. Embryos are very early on in life and do not have the ability to feel pain therefore the hedonic calculus can't calculate it. This type of utilitarianism is known as Act utilitarianism. However in some circumstances it could be permitted if it treats diseases such as Parkinson's. It could be permitted as the "greatest good for the greatest number" principle can be applied as it is bringing more pleasure then pain. However if a person was practicing rule utilitarianism which is mill's they would disagree with embryo research as they stick to their views regardless of the circumstances. They believe that Human life should be preserved but act utilitarianists could argue that embryos aren't human life and the principle of person hood is brought into it. The issue of personhood is raised as Rule utilitarian's believe human life should be preserved regardless of the situation however this is depending on whether or not you accept the embryo to be considered as a person therefore if you consider it as a human life it must be preserved and have the same rights as every other human life. If the embryo is accepted as a form of human life then it should be preserved, but it may not be considered a person with rights at this early stage. However utilitarianism only works if it is possible to analyse the situation and then judge it on its own merits, it can be argued that embryo research is permitted as it would save many lives in the future at the result of a few embryos which may have been discarded anyway. This brings the "greatest good for the greatest number" principle in making the decision. Also the time that the people who suffer from the diseases and the pain they go through brings lots of pain whereas a few embryos getting destructed brings less pain, therefore it is logical to use the embryos to research in curing the diseases as it will bring more pleasure then pain

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