Intentions & Results
In ethical reasoning we value acting with a good intention and
achieving the best outcome.
When these arguments clash, we become creative.
For instance, we
generally believe doctors should tell a patient the truth.
But a doctor may lie to encourage a patient, because
the doctor believes having hope may contribute to the patient’s recovery.
If our intention is good and no one seems to be harmed, we often think
a lie is right as well as best.
Empathy & Reason
Neuroscience has confirmed that we have evolved the capacity for
empathy and have mirror neurons that enable us to feel the
emotions we see in others.
also have evolved the mental ability to use reason to weigh the
possible consequences of taking an action, which enables us to
make the choice that seems to offer the best possible outcome.
Acting, Being & Predicting
Having good intentions involves being concerned with taking the
right action or being a good person, or both.
Being responsible for the practical outcome of our actions
involves weighing the likely consequences of the possible
choices we have, and then acting in the way that we predict will
have the best possible outcome.
Philosophers and theologians have developed these arguments into
Deontological ethics concerns doing what is right, whereas
teleological ethics is about our intention to be good persons in
a good society.
Consequential ethics considers what practical choice will lead
to the best possible results.
The four words above the horizontal line represent intrinsic
We should do our duty and respect the rights of others, because
we affirm these actions are intrinsically right.
We ought to cultivate moral virtues that reflect character, and
also be caring in our relationships, because we believe these
intentions are intrinsically good.
The word “consequences” represents the ethical argument that we
should act to realize the best possible future.
Deontology vs Consequences
about moral issues may reflect a clash between
deontological and consequential reasoning.
right to give informed consent means a doctor has a duty
to be honest in advising a patient.
Yet there is
evidence that patients do better when encouraged and may
even respond positively to a placebo.
Principles vs Predictions
Ethical arguments for taking the right action are rooted in our
religious and cultural traditions.
confirms that we have evolved to make moral decisions based on
empathy as well as our ability to predict the likely outcome of our actions.
Consequential arguments for doing what we think will yield the
best possible outcome reflect the ethical and practical
traditions of political philosophy and economics.
Teleology vs Consequences
addressing ethical issues arguments for compassion and
forgiveness may seem to clash with our responsibility to achieve
the best possible outcome.
For instance, a
parent or a physician may demand life-sustaining care
for an infant with a poor long-term prognosis.
Or, it may seem
that allowing the impaired infant to die would likely be
better for the child and/or the family.
Proactive vs Predicting
Traditional ethics ascribes intrinsic value only to human
beings. This makes the use of
merely a practical matter of what has the best consequences for
Yet, human health depends on the health of the earth’s biosphere, so
include caring for the earth’s ecosystems.
What might embracing an ecological way of life mean for health care?
consider arguments for intrinsic values in order to construct an
ethical presumption as to what we should do.
test our reasoning by predicting the likely consequences of
acting on this ethical presumption.
our predictions confirm the ethical presumption, then our moral
choice is clear. But if the likely consequences seem more
adverse than beneficial, then we should reassess our options.
in health ethics concern duty and rights, character
and relationships, and consequences.
is duty. Rawls is more concerned with
teaching relies on the natural law tradition that
affirms we should fulfill our human
purpose by being good persons and doing what is
based on consequences rely on utilitarian reasoning.
ANA* Ethics Code -
nurse’s primary commitment is to the
patient, whether an individual, family,
group or community.
nurse is responsible and accountable for
individual nursing practice. The nurse’s
obligation is to provide optimum patient
nurse promotes, advocates for and strives to
protect the rights of patients.
nurse owes the same duties to self as to
*American Nurses Association
ANA Ethics Code -
The nurse practices with
compassion and respect for the
inherent dignity, worth and
uniqueness of every person,
unrestricted by considerations
of social or economic status,
personal attributes, or the
nature of health problems.
The profession of nursing is
responsible for articulating
nursing values and for
maintaining the integrity of the
nursing profession and its
Code - Consequential Arguments
conducive to the
and the public
efforts to meet
ANA Code: Summary
telling the truth
value of nature?