A deadly avian (bird) flu strain is spreading through Dorchester. A vaccine has just been developed for this particular strain, but not enough vaccine has been produced to vaccinate the entire population.
Five patients have come to Carney Hospital this morning requesting the vaccine, but there is only one dose available.
You are a member of the hospital ethics committee. The clinical staff have turned to you for guidance. Do you recommend that one patient be vaccinated? If so, which patient, instead of any of the other four, should receive the dose? Or do you have a different recommendation entirely?
Explain your reasoning, referencing utilitarian ethics. (You don’t have to agree with utilitarianism, but you should show that you’re familiar with this theory.)
Serving on the ethics committee is a weighty responsibility. How does it feel to be asked to make this life-and-death decision?
Mary B. is a 47-year-old housewife and mother of four grown children. She is the primary caretaker of her husband, who was disabled in a roofing accident.
Samuel G. is a 60-year-old dentist. He is a lifelong bachelor. He provides free dental care to needy children. Mr. G. had surgery a year ago for colon cancer, with no sign of recurrence.
James T. is 18 years old. He is his parents’ only child. He dropped out of high school on his 16th birthday. His latest brush with the police occurred last week, when he was stopped for driving 90 mph while intoxicated.
Robert F., 42, is a real estate agent. He and his wife have eight young children.
Alexandra Z. is 35 and recently engaged. She is a world-famous journalist whose reports on poverty and famine in developing nations have led to an outpouring of donations.