Heinz’s Dilemma

Posted: November 30th, 2013





Heinz’s Dilemma


The central problem of this paper is that Heinz is faced with a dilemma of whether to steal the only drugs that will make his wife better. He is contemplating stealing them since the pharmacist will not reach a consensus with him. Since he cannot afford the drugs, he has made various suggestions to the pharmacist. The pharmacist has proved to be stubborn and therefore, this leaves Heinz with only one option, which is stealing the drugs. This is because he has an obligation of making his wife better. I will argue that, First, in relation to Kant’s moral theory, it will not be morally right for Heinz to steal  the drugs since it will not satisfy Kant’s idea of categorical imperative. Second, in relation to utilitarianism, it will not be morally right for Heinz to steal the drugs since not everyone involved in the situation will be happy with his actions. The pharmacist will be disappointed with the loss of his drugs. I will conclude that Heinz can get the drugs in order to make his wife better. According to the ethics of care, it is right to satisfy responsibilities at the expense of the moral acts. In addition, since the wife is a close relative, responsibility satisfaction is of great importance.

Kant’s moral theory

            This theory is proposed by Immanuel Kant. It enables a person identify the wrong deeds from the right ones. In this theory, Kant proposes various ideas of categorical imperative. He considers these ideas categorical since they are not done in order to satisfy one’s desires. On the other hand, they are imperative since the person involved has a duty to perform the act. This theory requires the moral statements to be applicable to the universal law. This means that all the moral statements should be applicable to all people and in all situations. If not, then they conflict with the Kant’s idea of categorical imperative. Therefore, the maxim of a person’s will should always be at par with the principal of the universal law for it to be applicable. According to Kant, morality is absolute. Morality does not consider the situation at hand. It is universal and forbids certain actions despite the situation.

            This theory has some basic tenets. Kant believes that people’s acts echo certain maxims. Maxims of an act are the principals upon which one chooses to follow. Therefore, the basic tenet is to consider our maxims and not the outcome of the acts. Whether the act results to happiness or sadness, in order to know whether the act is right or wrong, one must always consider the maxim. In addition, the act should not use a person as a mere means. This is making a person do certain acts against their will or acts that are not in line with their principles. However, it is not wrong to use someone as a means. A person may be used as a mere means by being deceived. The deceiving party uses this opportunity to benefit himself, which is not right according to Kant’s idea of categorical imperative. Another way of using a person as a mere means is by coercion. Therefore, maxims that portray coercion or deception are wrong. Kant’s theory requires people’s acts to treat people as an end.

In response to Heinz’ dilemma, a supporter of Kant’s theory will not support it. This is because, according to Kant’s theory, a person should consider his maxim and not the outcome of his maxim. Therefore, Heinz should reflect on whether the act he intends to engage in is right or wrong. It would be wrong for Heinz to steal the drug since his maxim, which is the decision to steal the drug is not moral. In addition, the moral statement of the theory should be applicable to the universal law. However, in Heinz’s situation, the moral statement is not applicable to all people and in all situations. Not everyone faced with the same situation would take the same action as Heinz. Others would resort to other solutions apart from this. Therefore, Heinz’s dilemma conflicts with Kant’s idea of categorical imperative. Heinz has the desire of making his wife feel better. He does not consider how moral his actions are. Therefore, his actions cannot be considered as categorical. Despite the desperation, according to this theory it is wrong for him to steal the drug.


The utilitarianism theory is proposed by John Stuart Mill. In this case, utility is the greatest happiness principal. Happiness in this case is the expected pleasure without any pain whatsoever. Unhappiness on the other hand is the experience of pain and deprived pleasure. This theory certifies that the achievement of pleasure and freedom from pain is the most desirable thing. In addition, John finds some kinds of pleasure to be more important than other forms. In this case, pleasure is measured in quantity and not quantity. This happiness should be for the benefit of all people affected by the act and not for an individual person. In addition, Mills ascertains that the utility concept entails assessing the outcomes of a particular action and not the reasons or the personality of the person performing the action. He views the theory as one that enables people to develop secondary moral principles that in turn lead to general happiness.

The basic tenets of this theory are that a person’s actions are only right if they result to happiness for all. An individual’s actions are wrong if they result to pain. It is only natural for people to seek happiness. This cannot be considered a moral act. However, it is only an ethical act when it is focused on all human beings and not only to an individual. Therefore, according to Mills, people would find their actions moral if they practiced utilitarianism ethically. Another basic tenet is that an individual should consider the consequence of his actions. A person should not consider the traits or the intentions of the other party or that of himself. In addition, he certifies that one should apply the principles of this theory when experiencing a moral dilemma. This will enable the person to make a choice on which decision to make that will ensure the happiness of all.

This theory requires a person’s motivation to relate to the standard of the utilitarian morality. An individual should not find motivation in negative acts but rather, find motivation in activities that result to happiness. Mills argues that there are two kinds of motivation. These are the external and the internal. The external motivation involves the human actions that act towards pleasing other beings. On the other hand, the internal one involves the human actions that act towards fulfilling a certain duty. Therefore, when one fails to fulfill these duties, he experiences pain. Contrary to Kant’s ethics that is not based exclusively on consequences, Mill’s ethics is totally based on the consequences. Therefore, Kant’s theory would ascertain that stealing is always wrong despite the consequences. However, Mills theory will ascertain that stealing can be wrong and right depending on the consequences.

A supporter of Mill’s theory will not agree with Heinz’s dilemma since Heinz’s action   of theft will not result to happiness for all. Three people are involved in this situation. These are Heinz, the wife and the pharmacist. If Heinz steals the drug, he will fulfill his desires and satisfy his duty as a husband to his wife. This is because his wife will get better. This drug is the only cure for his wife’s sickness and since he cannot afford it, he contemplates stealing it in order to make his wife better. However, the Pharmacist will not be happy about this since his property will be missing. Therefore, Heinz’s motivation does not relate to the utilitarian standards. This is because he finds motivation in negative actions such as theft. In addition, Heinz’s actions do not satisfy the principal of happiness for all since the pharmacist is left unhappy due to his actions.

Ethics of care

            This theory is proposed by Virginia Held. The main aim of this theory is to ensure the satisfaction of the important people in a person’s life. A person owes responsibility to these people. For example, a husband’s care to his wife is considered more important than his own moral principles. This theory acknowledges the fact that humans need to care for themselves. In addition, those responsible for this care experience many challenges when it comes to satisfying their moral rights. Since all people seek care at some point in their lives, the ethics of care considers this main issue and in turn, gives the expected moral values. This theory takes people’s emotions in to consideration. Emotions such as sympathy and sensitivity are considered. Virginia views these emotions as moral. Therefore, she feels these emotions should be refined to enable defining of morality requirements.

This theory has some main tenets. A person needs to respond to the responsibilities he owes to his loved ones. This satisfies the moral force by the fulfillment of the expected responsibility. This care is considered a value and a practice. A person is expected to feel angry in the event of bad treatment. This is righteous anger. In order to relate to the moral judgment and conduct, short-term emotions do not involve ethics of care. In this theory, the caregiver should respond to people with whom he has an actual relationship. The ethics of care is relational. It involves the care given to close relatives. This theory cannot apply to strangers. Therefore, this ethics has enabled the family needs to come first before the moral obligations. This theory portrays the importance of emotions unlike other theories that base on justice. Often emotions have always been considered as an obstacle in making right judgments. However, Virginia brings the good out of it.

A supporter of Virginia’s theory will agree with Heinz’s dilemma. This is because Heinz is frustrated and is only trying to make his wife feel better. In addition, Heinz owes a responsibility to his wife who is a close relative of his. Had they been strangers, this theory could not have been applicable. Heinz has even tried to negotiate with the pharmacist who proves to be stubborn. Therefore, since this theory puts the family needs first before the moral ones, Heinz has to do all he can in order to make his wife feel better. Heinz is only acting on emotions, which is considered in this theory. According to this theory, it is moral to be sympathetic and moral towards others feelings. Therefore, the pharmacist is not a moral person. The pharmacist is not considered a morally good person according to this theory.

I think the ethics of care handles the Heinz’s dilemma well. The Kant’s moral theory and the utilitarianism theory focus more on justice and morals. In contrast to these theories, Virginia argues that her theory considers the personal relations and community ties. This theory understands the need to help close relatives and friends. Therefore, as the other theories stress on the need for fairness, the ethics theory considers the need for upholding the family ties. This theory appraises these ties through maintaining ethics. It also proposes how justice, fairness and the individual rights can relate to care, trust and consideration. Therefore, I find the ethics of care to be promising than the other theories. This is because it allows a person to fulfill their responsibilities such as health care and childcare. I addition, it also poses the limits on the law against any actions done to fulfill these responsibilities.

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