J. S. Mill and Robert Veatch’s Critique of Utilitarianism

Southern Journal of Philosophy 23 (2):181-200 (1985)
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Modern bioethics is clearly dominated by deontologists who believe that we have some way of identifying morally correct and incorrect acts or rules besides taking account of their consequences. Robert M. Veatch is one of the most outspoken of those numerous modern medical ethicists who agree in rejecting all forms of teleological, utilitarian, or consequentialist ethical theories. This paper examines his critique of utilitarianism and shows that the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill is either not touched at all by his critique or can be defended against it. This article argues that the dominant deontological majority is mistaken and that a utilitarian theory of moral action very much like Mill’s is precisely what is needed by modern medical ethics and by those medical practitioners who are resolved to practice medicine in a reasonable and morally acceptable manner.
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