This patient is 71 years old and has metastatic lung cancer. She has been very happy, lives by herself and volunteers at a senior center. She has had three years in which she treated her cancer and allowed chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, after which she became dependent on night time oxygen. Her cancer continues to progress. Her physician wants her to try an experimental chemotherapy that has a 15% chance of putting this cancer in remission. She decides not to do this. She feels she would rather die than go through another treatment, one that will remove her from her home and put her in the hospital for treatment. This paper will discuss this patients decision in light of the utilitarian theory of biomedical ethics."Utilitarianism holds that the best option is the one that does the most expected good. Stuart Mill defines utilitarian ethical philosophy as that which defines a good action as the one that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain to as many people as possible. In other words, the consequences of the decision should be better than any of the other possible decisions. In this case, by utilitarian rules, there are other people to consider such as children and grandchildren.
The need to prolong life to its maximum accompanies our success with medicine and society's need for a long and healthy life. It used to be that people watched while loved ones suffered toward their deaths with a critical illness. This has been replaced with the philosophy that death should be stalled