Ethical Decision Making essay

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To begin with, let us consider the Strength and Tenacity of the passengers. If some of the passengers are imbued with the abilities like swimming and physical might, then, it will be reasonable for me to exclude them from the passengers who will use the lifeboat. This action will be informed by the utilitarian approach of matters. The reason being, since the odds of survival for the said passengers is high compared to the rest, it may  be possible to move the other five passengers a shore and make it back to save the rest. This will in the longer term maximize utility and thus bringing happiness to the majority since there is a higher chance of the remaining passengers to survive in the water before the lifeboat comes back to saves them. Considering that the windstorm is approaching, the chances of the Strong passengers to survive are minimized. Thus, in case they die, their Natural Right to Life will have been violated since they did not choose to remain voluntarily. The passengers also enjoy the Principle of Autonomy which supports the idea that everyone has the right to live their lives based on their own views of the moral virtues, honor and dignity; meaning of life and; views about religion. Kantian’s principle of Humanity will have been breached in this case since the remaining passengers will have been used as a means to an end- the end here being to save the other 5 passengers.

Another aspect of the passenger that I will consider is Voluntarism. Some of the passengers may choose to remain out of their own volition. In this case, the Kantian principle of Humanity will have been breached since the passengers would not have recognized the immoral action of using themselves as a means to an end. However, the Principle of Autonomy will not have been violated because the passengers will have decided to explore the Principle of Beneficence which allows them to look for the other passengers’ best interest. Since I, the captain, also have all the passengers’ best interest at heart, my decision in this regard will be based on the Principle of Beneficence and Utilitarianism which will maximize on the utility as more passengers will be saved thus bringing happiness to a majority.

On the contrary, if none of the passenger is willing to volunteer, then, I will have to go by another aspect of the passengers for my decision: Age and Gender. Suppose the passengers are mixture of the elderly (male or female); adults (male or female); and children, then, going by a Utilitarian approach, I will decide to ferry the elderly, female adults and children first, and then come for the adult males since they are active and have a high chance of survival in case the windstorm doesn’t come. This decision seems right since women and children are considered weak by the society and will, therefore, receive sympathy. Men on the other hand are considered tough by the society; consequently, they are expected to have a greater chance of survival. As a result, the larger populace, which more often than not embraces Utilitarianism, will be happy with the decision. Other ethical decision making avenues like the Principles of Autonomy, Natural Rights (right to life) Beneficence and Kantian’s Principle of Humanity, though, will be infringed on.

In addition, the employment status of the passengers is another aspect I will consider in reaching a decision. From the Principle of Autonomy and Beneficence point of view, I think this decision is plausible. First, let us scrutinize it from the Principle of Beneficence vantage point. As the captain, this principle accords me the duty to make a decision while considering the best interests of everybody involved (both the victims and non victims). Saving the employed passengers will mean a lot in terms of productivity of a nation, taking care of those who are dependent on them thus reducing any burden on someone else and ensuring posterity since they are in a position of supporting their children. Other subtle benefits that this decision will bring are creation of employment by putting the employees in the shipping company in business again and governmental support in ventures like infrastructure development, social security and grants which are courtesy of the taxes remitted by those in employment.

Moreover, the Principle of Autonomy that accords the passengers the right to live their life based on their view as long as it does not interfere with the right of others to act in the same vein, supports this decision. All the passengers would naturally want to survive the dilemma but in such a scenario, some will have to forgo their right to life in order for other passengers to survive. It is not wrong for any of the passengers to want to survive since the Principle of Natural Rights backs this. A critical look at this natural behavior in the light of this dire situation shows that the Principle of Autonomy enjoyed by other passengers too will be breached if some passenger were to consider being saved at the expense of others. Hence, it is clear that other ethical decision making principles have to be incorporated in support of this principle.

Last but not least, the staff, tasked with the duty of ensuring that all the passengers are safe and sound, will be considered as part of the passengers to remain behind. From a Utilitarian’s perspective, this is a morally right move to take since the employees of the ship are made aware and prepared for such risks; perhaps, they even receive a risk allowance. For that matter, they will have to subscribe to Act Utilitarianism even though they will be obliged to do so. Kantians Principle of Humanity is also instrumental in my making this decision. If the passengers considered for survival in the lifeboat are regarded as an end, then, the action of the staff to remain behind proves to be beneficial to the 5 passengers who are transported ashore. This decision is also in tandem with the Utilitarian approach since it maximizes utility (this is Rule Utilitarianism if this action is part of the work ethical codes). In the same breath, I will endorse this decision, a Kantian/Utilitarian hybrid, since it is a win-win situation. This means that, the passengers will be considered as the end according to the Kantian Principle of Humanity at the same time contributing to the greater happiness of the majority.

The decision above, however, infringes on the other principles like Utilitarianism since the majority may not argue in the same vein of my reasoning, thus, my decision will be considered irrational and, therefore, immoral. The employment status decision also counters the Natural Rights Principle- right to life- since it does not consider the other passengers as deserving of life, a viewpoint that is otherwise wrong.


After presenting the arguments above, it is thus reasonable for me to take a stand in this matter- make an ethical decision that will mean life for other passengers and maybe death for the rest. As opposed to what Utilitarianism posit, I will make a decision based on Employment status of the passengers. In other words, my decision is in terms of productivity which promotes the gross domestic product of a nation. Therefore, I will consider leaving behind children, the elderly or unemployed women if they happened to be part of the passengers since they are a liability to a nation. Furthermore, I will decide to leave the elderly since they have a reduced life expectancy and may not live much due to trauma obtained from such an ordeal. In addition, I will leave the children behind because other children can always be given birth to in order to compensate for those who may die. Subsequently, I will welcome the Principle of Beneficence which allows the active and working adult members of the society to be given a preliminary chance for survival since they will contribute to growth and development of the gross domestic product and the nation respectively. This will be in the best interest of the greater populace since the accrued benefits from the development, will benefit a collective public through governmental initiatives like social security, grants and infrastructure development.

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