The term ethics means inquiry into the state and basis of morality. Morality refers to right decisions, principles, and rules of demeanor. Ethics has been termed as the discipline that deals with the human behavior in some cases, with an emphasis of verifying right and wrong. The distinction between a normal choice and an ethical one is that the latter requires one to exercise the duty of weighing virtues and arriving at a judgment in a case that is unique from the others that he or she has encountered prior to this. Another distinction relates to the amount of accent placed by decision makers on their own principles and accepted ways of doing things in their own company. Accordingly, values and principles play a significant part when people or organizations have to make decisions that are ethical in nature. It is an agreeable fact that elevated ethical standards are determined by the ability of both persons and businesses to ascribe to sound moral values (Ferrell, Fraedrich, and Ferrell, 2009, p. 6).
Generally, beliefs about right and wrong are described by ethics and morality. Ethics are also used to give suitable directions regarding how one should undertake a certain action. On the other hand, morality is a devotion to personal values that are informal (Day, Paul and Williams, 2009, p. 27). Since there is a very thin line between morality and ethics, one is often used in place of the other. A 29 year old wife has been paralyzed from a traumatic brain injury due to an automobile accident that she had several years ago. The husband is now taking care of both the wife and their sons.
The wife is unable to communicate and decide well on various life issues. The wife has terminated a recent pregnancy due to health decisions that were contributed by her own family. They regard the husband’s sexual relations with his handicapped wife as rape. The husband on the other hand justifies his sexual relations with his wife as necessary since it has existed prior to her having an accident. This essay therefore attempts to look at whether the husband’s sexual relations with the wife are ethical. This is done by looking at the scenario in view of some ethical theories and in exploring some facts and issues that would be helpful in effectively answering the question.
This is a theory that puts a focus on the results of actions. Under this theory, the choice of action is vivid since the best action to be undertaken is that which maximizes good over bad.
The difficulty of this theory is in judging intrinsic values to ascertain whose good ought to be the greatest. Moreover, an important question to be asked is whether immoral actions can be justified when they are being used to achieve good consequences (Day, Paul and Williams, 2009, p. 27). In the present case, the consequences under focus are several. First, the paralysis of the wife that was caused by the automobile accident has thus made her not be able to communicate, take care of herself, walk, or even eat.
Secondly, the husband is compelled to provide her with homecare as a result of the paralysis. Thirdly, she gets pregnant due to their sexual relations with her husband. Fourthly, the pregnancy is terminated by her physicians in view of her health concerns. Apparently, this is due to decisions from her family. Lastly, there is the resulting conflict between the husband and the wife’s family members due to the termination of the pregnancy. Of great importance in this study is whether the husband’s sexual relations are ethical. In answering this question in the view of the teleological theory, it will be prudent to look at other questions as well. These include whether it could have been better for the husband to have extra marital affairs because of the current state of health of his wife, and the question of whether it is unlawful to have sexual relations with one’s spouse if they are in a state of health similar to the one the wife is in.
This is in addition to how rape is defined and circumstances under which physicians ought to terminate pregnancy. It is clear that the husband is both loving and caring and that is why he has chosen to take care of his ailing wife. Although the wife is in a pathetic state of health, she is perhaps in need of sexual satisfaction from the husband. Since she is unable to talk, it cannot be assumed that she is not in need of sexual relations with her husband. In addition, as the husband asserts, they were in a loving sexual relation throughout their marriage. This being his own wife, he could restrain himself from having intimacy with her. Since she is unable to talk, it could have been difficulty for the husband to agree with her on whether it was needful to have another child, hence getting pregnant. However, non-verbal communication could have been employed between the two to agree on this since she is said to be responsive to visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation.
In view of the shortcomings of the teleological theory with respect to the present study, is that based on the judgment of intrinsic values, the good of the ailing wife should have been the greatest. She is already in much trauma due to the accident that occurred. Thus, pregnancy and any action leading to it should have been avoided at all costs so that she is given sufficient health care to let her recover first. This is because extra discomfort is encountered when one is pregnant. Thus, although the husband was trying to avoid any bad outcome such as extra-marital affairs that could have led to further problems like sexually transmitted diseases and neglect of his family; his sexual actions could have led to more problems and was in this regard not ethical.
The argument of this theory is that the ethical standards and their outcomes are mutually exclusive. A single situation may suit the application of one or several moral principles. One’ action may be based either on the one moral principle or on several moral principles available. The shortcoming of this theory is that either personal or cultural biases may affect the choice of the most primary moral principle (Day, Paul and Williams, 2009, p. 27). In the current case, the husband’s actions are guided by a primary moral principle, which is as the husband; he reserves the right to have sexual relations with his wife. In addition, in him doing this, he will be fulfilling one of the key purposes of their marriage; procreation.
It is also amoral for him to have extra marital affairs because the wife is sick. Thus, according to this theory, his actions are justified since it is for the good of the family and that the consequences of his actions are separate from his sexual actions. However, his actions may not be justified based on how the wife’s family members and health professionals perceive it. Accordingly, the wife’s family regards his sexual relations with her as rape. This is because rape can be defined as a coercing or compelling someone to have sexual relations against their willingness and in this may be the case of marital rape (Page, 2010, p. 381). Since the wife is incapacitated and lacks the ability to communicate effectively and make appropriate judgment, the husband having sexual relations with her may be regarded as rape since she may not have consented to the same. Thus, viewed from this moral principle, the husband’s actions may be termed as amoral.
Judgment using the Double Effect Criterion
This is a criterion that can be used to ethically justify some actions whose consequences are either good or bad (Day, Paul and Williams, 2009). Thus, although the outcomes of the husband’s actions may not be good, his action may be morally justified. This is because, first, the action can be termed as being ethically impartial; having physical intimacy with his wife is morally acceptable. However, given that her present state of health does not allow her to make sound decisions with respect to having sex, doing so may amount to rape, which is amoral.
Secondly, the agent (husband) genuinely intends for good and not a bad outcome. The bad outcome is not intended but it can be foreseen. He intends to sexually satisfy his wife and remain faithful. However, this does not stop him from foreseeing the pregnancy that might complicate the wife’s state of health. Thirdly, the evil outcome is not used as a means of achieving the good outcome. The husband is consciously aware that his action will have a good outcome and not the evil one.
Finally, the balance of good over evil is proportionate. The intention behind the husband’s decision to have sexual relations with his ailing wife is favorable in comparison to the amoral aspect of it. Thus viewed from this criterion, the husband’s action is justified.
Ethics describe beliefs about right and wrong. Judging whether a given action is ethical or not can be done from the various ethical theories; these are the teleological, deontological and the double effect. Based from the more vivid and adequate arguments presented by both the teleological and deontological theories with respect to the present study, it is not morally upright for the husband to have sexual relations with his ailing life. He would rather take care of her until she recovers first. His actions are unethical since in the state the wife is in, she cannot make any sound decision since her communication is impaired.
Therefore, although the husband’s action is not ill informed, it may be regarded as rape. The husband has good intentions such as expressing love to his wife, being faithful and being responsible. Moreover, the resulting pregnancy could have further deteriorated the wife’s state of health. Although the double effect theory may tend to justify the husband’s action by overlooking the outcomes, the weight of the consequences of his sexual actions far outweigh his good intentions. His sexual actions were not thus ethical.
Day, R., Paul, P. and Williams, B. (2009).
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Retrieved February 1, 2011 from http://books.google.com/books?id=8UEuTrErvuAC&pg=PA381&dq=the+possibility+of+rape+between+spouses&hl=en&ei=pf1HTaDtHsy0hAfc7JHoBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=the%20possibility%20of%20rape%20between%20spouses&f=false.