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HUM1155 - Ethics, Lethbridge College, Canada

Ethical Dilemma: The Case of Surrogacy and Abortion


Question: Choose one deontological and one teleological theory from the list. DESCRIBE each theory in a short but detailed way, then apply each theory to the moral dilemma. After applying your TWO theories to the moral dilemma include a short but detailed analysis section where you provide your own argument given what you have just written. Is one theory better than another? Do both theories miss something critical? Make a claim and support your claim with reasons.

Answer: Introduction: An ethical dilemma is primarily a conflict that exists between the alternatives, whereby, no matter whatever an individual does, some of the other ethical principle is bound to get compromised. Therefore, it is important to effectively analyze the options, along with their consequences, so as to determine the basic elements for the decision making process (Zembylas, & McGlynn, 2012). The following discussion would focus on the aspects of ethical dilemma that is associated with the case of Crystal Kelley, who acted as a surrogate and was subjected to the ethical dilemma of aborting the fetus since it had certain abnormality associated with its growth and survival possibilities. The theories of Kantian ethics and virtue ethics has been taken into consideration with respect to the case, so as to gain more perspective regarding the theoretical efficacy.

Deontological Theory - Kantian Ethics

As has been mentioned by Sullins (2012) Kant had presented the principle of morality in three forms, of which there was only one rule. As per Kant, the foremost fact is that an indivdiual possesses autonomy and they have the ability of making their own decisions and thereby live by them, instead of being completely subjected to the determination by the laws of natural causalities associated with the other agents that exist in the world. As has also been mentioned by Timmermann (2013) that tensions exist between duty and inclination, with an ever present conflict between ethics of autonomy and revealed religion, although, morality out-wins. The overall strategy that is associated with the moral theory of Kant is deriving the content of the obligations of an individual, from the very concept that is associated with duties.


With respect to the case of Crystal Kelley, the surrogate mother, she had encountered the ethical dilemma of whether to continue the pregnancy with the child with several physical and medical defects, or to abort the child on the grounds to save her from any more issues and complications that may arise after her birth. Kelley had always been against the abortion on the moral and ethical grounds, however, the biological parents had forcing her to undergo abortion, as the Surrogacy Contract of Connecticut provided the biological parents the advantage of terminating the pregnancy. When analyzing the scenario with respect to the Kantian ethics, it can be determined that Kelley had a duty of protecting the child as she had been carrying her from the beginning. On the other hand, there also existed the conflict as to whether she would be able to take care of the baby after it is born or would the baby have the opportunity to lead a healthy life. As a consequence of such kind of conflict, Kelley was under the dilemma as to if she should accept the $10,000 that was offered by the biological parents for the medical termination of the pregnancy, or if she should continue with the pregnancy and attempt to provide her with a healthy life that she deserves.

Teleological Theory - Virtue Ethics

As has been highlighted by Bright, Winn, &Kanov (2014), virtue is the pursuit of the highest good of the human being and is the most ennobling behaviors as well as the essence of human kind, at its best. Virtue ethics has a rich history as the kind of approach towards development of excellent human character, as well as, as a framework towards promoting a highly functional and strong society. Virtue based ethics is considered as the dominant mode of moral reasoning through majority of the history (Mattingly, 2012). On the other hand, Katz(2011) has mentioned about the concept of ‘efficient breach', which is the ideology associated with the aspect that a contracting party can be encouraged towards breach of a contract and subsequently pay for the damages in doing so, in situations where the breach is a more efficient option than performing the actions of the breach itself.

With respect to the case of Kelley, it can be stated that although she was under the Surrogacy Contract that made it obligatory for her to terminate the pregnancy at the will of the biological parents, she had the moral rights of denying such clauses, if she deemed it otherwise. In the case of the pregnancy that she was undergoing as a surrogate mother, she had developed strong feelings for the developing fetus and was unwilling to accept to give up on her due to the physical abnormalities that were detected in the baby in the early stages of pregnancy. Moreover, she had developed the virtue that she should be protecting the baby as she has been carrying her, and not the biological mother. Such string instincts of protecting the baby, both on moral and emotional grounds is associated with the aspects of virtue ethics, to a large extent and therefore, her decision of continuing the pregnancy and not terminating it, is related to the characters that are defined by the virtue ethics.


Analysis: Based on the discussion that has been presented on the grounds of the ethical theories of Kantian ethics and virtue ethics, it can be determined that both these theories are appropriate for the presented case scenario. Kantian ethics highlights that Kelley, as an individual, has the autonomy of making her own decision and therefore, has the right of exercising with continuity of the pregnancy, despite the claims that are being made by the biological parents. As has also been highlighted by Timmermann (2013), an individual has the obligations of following the path that fulfils their duty, as is also in the case of Kelley, whereby she, being the carrying mother of the baby, has the duty of protecting the baby, despite all the claims that are being made by the biological parents, doctors, lawyers and other individuals who had claimed that she should not continue the pregnancy and give birth to a ‘defective child' and let her ‘suffer' more from the illnesses that she would be born with.

In the similar manner, virtue ethics allowed Kelley to proceed forward with the decision of continuing the pregnancy and breach the Surrogacy Contract that provided the biological parents with the advantage of forcing Kelley to terminate the pregnancy. This has been elaborated well by Katz(2011) who has mentioned that an individual has the right to breach the contract if they deem that following the actions associated with the contract is against their moral grounds. Although this would imply that Kelley would be needing to pay the penalty for breaching the contract, however, she would have the higher moral grounds of giving birth to the child and providing the baby with the opportunity of continuing the life that she deserves, as an individual.

Conclusion: From the discussion that has been presented above, it can be concluded that Crystal Kelley should continue with the pregnancy and give birth to the child, as that is the most moral and noble thing to do, as a human being. Moreover, it can also be determined that the biological parents should be supportive of her decision, instead of subjecting her to more humiliation as to she does not have the right to continue with the pregnancy, despite her being the one carrying the baby.


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