Identifying a Moral Dilemma
The concept of moral dilemma comes into play when a person is required to perform two actions all of which take priority but both cannot be undertaken simultaneously. This means that one has to choose between the two and forgo one, which has its own repercussions. This person is thus condemned to moral failure. Irrespective of the choice that he or she chooses to take, one will end up failing to do what he or she ought to have done and thus suffer the consequences. The person concerned has moral reasons to perform each of the two or more actions. When one of the conflicting choices is of more priority than the rest, then it case is not a genuine moral dilemma. A genuine moral dilemma is whereby none of the options is of more importance than the rest.
I am the first born in our family and our parent died a couple of years ago. The situation caused me to act as the head of our family in terms of fending for them, making tough choices for them in school and in life in general. Last year my younger brother was involved in a serious accident in his school bus that left several students dead. His skull cracked open and his brain permanently damaged. The doctors said that he had no chance for a complete recovery and was bed ridden. On top of that, since his nerve cells were still working, he was under extreme pain throughout the day and night and the painkillers were not of much help. As his next of kin, the doctors placed on me the heavy burden of choosing whether to pull the plug and put him off his misery, or let him stay under life support where he would live in excruciating pain and the bills to go off the roof until he dies naturally.
This is an example of a genuine moral dilemma. If I took the choice of putting my brother to rest, it is likely that I will experience remorse or guilt of having lost a close member of our family with the hope of never getting to see him again. It is appropriate that I experience remorse or guilt for having taken that course of action, which is a moral residue. Yet, had I chose to let nature take its course, and have my brother continue with life under life support, I would also experience remorse or guilt for having to witness my brother writhe in pain daily. One is in a position of experiencing remorse or guilt only if one believes he has made the wrong choice, or knows that he has failed to do something that he or she was required to do. In this case, relieving my brother off his misery or keeping him alive. No matter what decision I took even with the doctors’ advice, I would still appropriately experienced remorse or guilt of letting my brother down
Throughout life, one gets to face moral questions. Depending on the person, one will tend to act impulsively, act according to his gut feeling, instinctively or choose to take some time off and think or reason on his next course of action. Explicit reasoning is whereby a person attempts to come up with a final well based and factual answer to a defined question through responsible critical thinking. Moral reasoning is a process whereby one contemplates whether an action he or she has or is about to do is right or wrong. In order to establish whether an action is right or wrong, it is not necessary to look into the action itself but on what the action’s intention will accomplish. This means that the end justifies the means. If one wants to know whether the route he or she is taking is the right or wrong one, one should consider checking whether the route will get him to the right or wrong destination. In knowing whether an action is the right or wrong one, one needs to have a clear perception of what he or she wants to accomplish. He or she needs to appreciate the present conditions and those between now and the accomplished state.
Morality implies thinking and acting along the set standards of right or good conduct, which are set by a society on its system of ideas on what is considered to be right or wrong in that particular society. Standards of morality differ from society to society. The standards of morality are set according to religion if the society is strictly religious. They could also be contemporary or secular if the society is more modern. When the religious standards of morality are taken into account, taking him off life support would have been out of the question. Under religion, life is considered sacred, it is God who gives, and it is He who is supposed to take. Unless the person is under capital punishment, only then are we authorized to take the life of a fellow human being. This is in contrast to the belief that “capital punishment is a violation of the value of the life principle” (Thiroux & Keith 160). Under a professional and a more contemporary society, if the doctors deem the patient as terminally ill and put him under ‘tender loving care’, it is advisable to pull the plug off and save him and yourselves the agony.
This is done out of pity in order to relieve the patient off his misery and cutting back on some hefty hospital bills. The latter is just an add-on but not the underlying reason. The organs of the patients could be used to help other patients. Eyes could be used to give sight to the blind and the like. In this case, I could not decisively state what moral grounds I would use to base my judgment. Our parents had brought us up in a religious setting but school and society had made me deem the contemporary society with some sense of respect. Moral reasoning is classified into two distinct categories. One is “consequentialists” moral reasoning and the other is “categorical” moral reasoning. For those who practice “consequentialists” moral reasoning, morality to them is not definite but relative. This means that it is dependent on the prevailing circumstances. This means that the results will either justify the action or not. For those who practice “categorical” moral reasoning, morality is absolute. In this instance, an action can be either right or wrong and cannot be either or none of the two. Categorical moral reasoning could be argued that it is not relevant and practical. Those who do practice it lack empathy and imagination.
In this case, it is irrelevant because irrespective of the choice I took, I would end up doing something both right and wrong. A consequentialist’s moral reasoning is the best that could be easily adapted whereby I would put myself in my brother’s shoes and try to come up with the answer from that state of empathy. In order to come up with the right decision, human beings also use other means other than using rational reasoning. These include the use of instinct and emotion as a quick means of making a decision based on successful habits. This is also known as the gut feeling. This is usually used when the time limit is minimal and the decision needs to be made expeditiously. This could not apply in my case, as I did not have a deadline to meet although time was of the essence. The use of instincts is not an advisable means of coming up with a decision as the choice taken is irrespective of the facts and thus can be termed as baseless. Only superstitious people can afford to make a judgment based on a gut feeling and that is not me.
Considering all this, I decided to pull my brother off life support. It is a tough choice to make but I argued that it was for the best, for both him and us. This meant that he would not have to continue living in agonizing pain and for us whom he left behind we would not have to endure seeing him hurting daily. On top of that, based on the medical reports, there was no way he would he make a full recovery. We donated his organs to the hospital and his body as a cadaver. Even with all this in mind, regret and remorse still haunt me. This is because even doctors do at times make mistakes and perhaps a miracle was in the offing. This I felt as the best choice as “everyone should perform that act or perform the moral rule which will bring about the greatest good (or happiness) for everyone concerned” (Thiroux & Keith 42).
Thiroux, Jacques and Keith Krasemann. Ethics: Theory and Practice. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.
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