Utilitarianism is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined by its usefulness. In maximizing utility and minimizing negative utility, in short it can be defined as pleasure minus pain. Deontology means duty or obligation. This theory was founded by a German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). According to Kant, it is the only way of making moral decisions. Another definition for deontology is that it is an approach to the justification in which priority is given to the fundamental principles (Thompson et. al 2000;364)

Utilitarianism is an act which is right when it promotes happiness and is wrong when it promotes unhappiness. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was the founder of this theory and John Mill (1706-1873) became the advocate. John Bentham (1748-1832) believed that pain and pleasure not only explain our actions but also help us to define what is good and moral. According to Bentham’s hedonistic, utilitarianism states that we should always perform the act which leads to great pleasure. In practical how can pleasure be measured in order to be able to compare it with other acts, in order to overcome this problem?


Bentham decided to propose the hedonic calcus which focuses on seven features of pleasure. These features are: • Intensity • Duration • Certainty • Proportionality • Fecundity • Purity Extent In order to calculate the pleasure, according to John Betham, the equation could be total pleasure –> potential pain x number of people affected= strength of moral. John Stuart Mill (1706 -1873) decided to expand on the same thing stating that all pleasures were not equal and that there was a difference between the quantity and quality of pleasure. He illustrated the importance of pleasure to human happiness.

Some people found pleasure and happiness in acquiring things and participating in activities. In this paragragh am going to compare and contrast in detail deontology and utilitarianism ethical theories The most important merit of utilitarianism is happiness or pleasure is the main focus. An act is wrong when it makes people unhappy. This theory maybe applied in relation to nursing. For example, the ward manager may promote happiness by giving the nurses a day off on a Christmas day and other nurses may be unhappy as they may have to cover another person’s shift on that day.

Kant’s theory emphasises on doing the duty despite the consequences in this case. Kant’s theory is more applicable to the manager to ensure that the ward is well covered on Christmas day. Kant’s theory on rights state that an action is wrong if it violates a person’s right to life, liberty and property- the pursuit of happiness. One of the merits of deontology the focus is on doing your duty as long as it is morally right. Moral decision can be made regardless of circumstances the rights of the individual cannot be overruled by the rights of the state.

As a nurse, I would not agree with Kant’s theory as it means it is alright to administer a large dose of morphine as long as it makes the individual happy and the rights of the individual are respected. As a nurse I am accountable for actions as stated by the Nursing Midwifery Council Code of Professional Practice. Jeremy Betham’s theory is more concerned with pleasure. Here are precepts of deontology theory Kant’s categorical imperatives(Groundwork of the Metaphysics of morals1785) • Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal.

Kant’s message direct to health professional is that our behaviour should be acceptable by the society in which we live and if our behaviour is not accepted then the society will lose trust in the care we deliver, • Act in such that you always treat humanity in you r in your own person or in the person of any other ,never simply as means ,but as the same time ends ,time will In other words Kant”s theory relates to nursing in such way as nurses the way we should treat the individuals under our care should be the way we would want to e treated , This will create respect and safe environment for the hospitals. John Stuary Mill’s theory contrast related to how people find pleasure and human happiness. Utilitarianism understands all practical reasoning- reasoning about what to do as means to an end reasoning. It is rational to do whatever brings about a good end.

The utilitarianism thinks it is obvious that is something is good more of it is better and we ought to do what is. The deontologist disagrees and offers an alternative theory of practical reasoning. (Michael Lacewing www. levelphilosophy. co. uk) Here is an illustration of how a Deontologist and Utilitarianism may differ on making decisions , A bus on a school bus with 30 children is hijacked by hijackers . The hijackers demanded that one child should be killed so that the rest would be saved. The hijackers have made it clear that if no action is made within an hour they will kill all the children within 3hours. A utilitarian will make a decision based on its merit that is utilitarianism is a theory that produces that always produces happiness for the greater number of people .

Therefore if one child dies it saves 29children. A deontologist will follow the deontological ethical theory killing is forbidden deontologist will try to negotiate to save all as it morally right not kill. In the world of deontology individuals are regarded as valuable to the society where as in the world of utilitarianism allows other individuals to be sacrificed for the sake of others. The second illustration will be based in a ward situation , There is a 25 year old lady who is newly married is diagnosed with cancer of the ovaries.

In this scenario deontologist will agree to tell the truth to the patient about the results because it is morally wrong to tell a lie and Kant puts it do your duty despite the consequences . In this case utilitarian will have a different approach because he may think if this lady knows the truth then she will be unhappy and the rest of the family. Kant’s theory is more appropriate because according to Kant” rights it is morally right to respect the rights of the humans in the society.

Therefore this lady has a right to know about her diagnosis despite the fact this lady maybe depressed as it means her chances of having children are slim. Jeremy Bentham the founder utilitarianism of used a formula known as hedonic calculus in order to quantify pleasure whilst in contrast Emmanuel Kant used the following theories divine command which forbids killing and lying, duty or obligations, contractarianism , rights, and monistic theory to come up with Deontological ethics

They are some similarities between deontology and utilitarianism They both can be applied to the society as a whole. They are very important in moral decision making . They can be used universally. Here are some criticism which the deontology theory may encounter when being put into practice. In my opinion deontology does not say when an individual should carry out duty how the duty should be done what if there is pain whilst performing the duty. The deontology theory does not care about the outcome. The theory does not specify which duty to carry out if more than one arises.

Kant did not elaborate when he states killing is forbidden that means if an intruder breaks with an intention of killing the owner of the house then the owner is not allowed to act in self defence. The rights of the individual overrules the rights of the states this may cause problems in hospital. Suppose a patient decides to smoke cigarettes whilst on oxygen this may cause a fire and endanger the lives of the patients and hospital staff. In this case, Kant should be specific on which rights. Aristole beg to differ by putting the focuses on the individual and on how to find true happiness .

Aristole emphasis on intrinsic value and extrinsic Utilitarianism also face criticis m as it emphasises on pleasure for greater number of people not worry about moral . Utilitarianism does not value human life as it allows it to be sacrificed for the sake of others. Pleasures and happiness is top priority but does not put into consideration the morals. John Stuart Mill’s statement about principle on harm to others “The only purpose which power can be rightfully exercised over a member of a civilised community against his will is to prevent harm to others.

His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient (Simon Lee1986 PAGE 22. )Simon Lee was not satisfied with John Stuart Mill’s solution of harm to others therefore came up with a suggestion that society should be able to separate between factual disagreements and morals. Tthe theory of utilitarianism states acquiring goods may give pleasure to certain individuals but does not specify how those goods maybe acquired as these goods maybe acquired illegally for example selling drugs.

This act will have to be stopped even if it causes happiness to the greater number of people, Drug abuser may feel justified to use drugs as the theory may seem appropriate to the fact it says it is an act which is right if it produces happiness to greater number of people. CONCLUSION Despite the criticism faced with deontology the theory can be used in nursing because it states that killing is forbidden and lying. It supports the facts that euthanasia is illegal in the United Kingdom. It it promotes ethical morals in nursing.

As nurses we are required by the Nursing Midwifery Council not to lie therefore it is fair deontology is guides us to work within Nursing Midwifery guidelines. On another hand deontology urges an individual duty to carry out despite the consequences this contradict with the Professional Code of Practice because as nurses we are accountable for our action that is :For example if a doctor prescribes the wrong dose of a drug then a nurse gives the drug which may become harmful to the patient . This will result with the nurse facing some disciplinary hearing. In this case theory may have mislead the nurse.

Utilitarianism may be very useful to the ward manager whenever they deal with the staff. An action or policy should produce happiness among the nurses . If the moral for nurses is high then they deliver better care to a greater number of patients. It is useful when matron promote ward manager as they need to choose a person who has the qualities to work with other nurses in peace. It also gives a chance to nurses to think carefully before act towards the patients . It is important to ensure that we are acting within the NMC guidelines rather being carried away by action which produce happiness.