Act- and rule-utilitarianism

In this paper, you will exercise utilitarian thinking. You should, in your own words, (a) state what utilitarianism is, (b) state the distinction between act- and rule-utilitarianism. You should then carry out (c) an act- and (d) a rule-utilitarian analysis of the following case.

There are two people in your hospital awaiting a kidney. There is one kidney available that will be a match for both of them. They both have rare blood and tissue types that make it unlikely that another kidney can be found any time soon that might be a match for either so this might be the last chance for both.

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One individual, Jack, is a 19 year old male college student, a slightly below average student majoring in business (when he goes to class). He went to a party, something he does often, and got thoroughly drunk, also something he does often. He got into his car and went for a drive. Since he was much too drunk to be driving he lost control of the car and struck a telephone pole. The impact of the crash has caused both of Jack’s kidneys to rupture. The kidney transplant will probably enable him to live a normal life if he is careful and stops drinking. His family is very wealthy and can easily afford to pay all hospital costs. Dialysis can keep him alive for a few years at most and the procedure will cause steady deterioration.

The second individual, Martin, is a seventy year old retired janitor. He was also the pastor of a small rural church for nearly forty years, during which time he was held in the highest esteem, raising money for the poor, presiding over hundreds of weddings and funerals. You can scarcely tell he is retired since he has remained almost fully engaged in the activities of the church. However, he has a number of other medical conditions (most notably arteriosclerosis) that make it unlikely he will live longer than another five years at most. Each year will probably make him less robust and less able to keep up his remarkable pace. In addition, he has no medical insurance, and couldn’t begin to reimburse the hospital for the costs of his treatment. Dialysis may keep him alive for a year or so, but at his age and in his condition, it will take its toll.

Who gets the kidney? (Provide an act- and a rule-utilitarian answer.)

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