Utilitarian versus Kantian ethics

Shuli Levy is a locum consultant geriatrician at the Hammersmith hospital, London, running liaison geriatrics and MDT support teams for tertiary specialist services. She has recently taken over as head of the BGS Ethics and Law special interest group. 

kant_461965I recently gave a talk to doctors and medical students in my department, about the difference in Utilitarian versus Kantian ethics and the implications for our practice as generalists and as geriatricians. It surprised me that no one, apart from one medical student, had heard the terms before. Not for the first time, I reflected on how so much of our daily work as geriatricians involves complex ethical and legal decisions but so little time is devoted to exploring and understanding them. We may use our precious CPD time to learn more about endocrinology in older people or novel approaches to the mitral valve, but rarely encounter patients for whom this is relevant in clinical practice. In contrast, ethical questions, and the statutory duties they engender, arise on every medicine for the elderly ward round, on most acute takes, daily in the community and in every MDM. Continue reading