Friday, July 15, 2016

Deontology and Stealing Meds to Save a Life

From guest blogger, Julie.

Imagine a situation where your spouse is critically ill, but could be helped with a dosage of Medication X. However, you are too poor to afford the medication. Do you watch your beloved spouse suffer and eventually pass from the disease or do you break the law and steal the medication so that your spouse can go on to live life with you?

Do we save our spouse at the cost of doing something else that seems immoral (i.e. stealing)? It seems our “moral gut” would tell us to steal the medication for our spouse and provide them relief and salvation from their deadly illness. It is our duty to protect our loved ones/family. Or is it? Let us see how Kant would evaluate this dilemma. 

If the maxim is formulated as:
  1. I will steal medication for my sick spouse since I cannot afford it.
  2. Everyone steals medication for their sick spouse since they cannot afford it. 
  3. Since everyone is stealing medication, frenzy will ensue and there will be no medication left to steal or there will be no more access to medication.
Here lies a contradiction, thus deeming this maxim impermissible. 

This still seems wrong to let our spouse die when we didn’t try everything in our power to help them. What can we do now to save our spouse? Which moral theory would allow this action to be ethical? Not Virtue Ethics, as that would be a contradiction of virtues. It seems Consequentialism is our only option. Again this would depend as to whether or not a greater net good or bad is brought about from stealing the medication. Do we tarnish society in the long run by allowing theft to be moral under certain circumstances or do we live in pain from the loss of our loved one due to inaction?

What do you think? Is there a way to save our loved one in a moral manner?


Anonymous said...

Kara Rubashkin:

I think this maxim could be permissible if slightly tweaked:

1. I will steal medication for someone who cannot attain it-that will die without it.
2. Everyone steals medication for those who cannot attain it
3. Everyone is stealing medication for those who can't get it, saving those lives. A frenzy could result in the lessening of costs for the said medication, to eliminate the widespread 'need' for theft. In this circumstance, everyone gets the medication.

The idea behind 3 is that if the maxim is limited to only financial reasoning, and the medication producers and manufacturers are only interested in making as much money as they can-they will lower their prices to reduce widespread theft.

In this paradigm, the principle of Universalizibility could be used to morally save our loved one.

Lee Troz said...


If you changed how you worded your Maxim, would that change the effects of the universalization? Though it would be a terrible thing to no longer have medication available to everyone, if only those who were too "poor" to buy the medication stole, what would that look like? Plus, who's to say that we know for sure what a universalization of this action would look like?

For example:

1. I will steal medication for my sick spouse since I don't have the money to afford it.
2. Everyone who does not have the money to afford the medication will
steal it as needed.
3. Everyone who is stealing the medication because of financial issues gets the medicine anyway, so the producers of the medication lower the prices so that people no longer need to steal the medication!

This seems like Kant's biggest downfall in his theory of Deontology is the fact that the maxim test can be manipulated to create the desired outcome. Plus, how can we be sure what the universalization of a maxim will look like ? Personal opinion? It sometimes seems like pure speculation.

-Lee Troz