‘Side Effects’ – An Ethical Egoism At Work

Over the weekend I was able to enjoy the film ‘Side Effects.’ At the heart of the plot there is an example of Ethical Egoism at work and I am interested in what input the class has towards this subject since it was difficult to come up with specific scenarios with this Moral Theory at work.

*** SPOILER ***  – If you have not seen this film, I only touch on a few specific plot points.

Pharmaceutical companies approach Psychiatrists in order to encourage participation in trials of a new behavior-altering drug.  There is monetary compensation involved in this deal.  In turn, these doctors propose to candidate patients that they will receive free medication for agreeing to the test study.   In the end, the companies are getting cheap, effective trials, the mental health patients are getting free medication, and the doctors are getting paid.  This is a perfect example of all parties involved acting purely out of self-interested and providing happiness for everyone.

Is this system moral? Kantianism vs. Ethical Egoism.

In the early stages of visiting Kantianism we are presented with a category of morality based on us cooperating with each other by not using each other as means to an end.  In this example of actions between users, everyone involved is ‘using’ each other in some manner.  By definition, any rule involved in these specific actions would be immoral.  The companies should perform more proper trials on their drugs before FDA approval.  The psychiatrists should diagnose patients with no bias.  The patients should be wary of experimental medicine and not make decisions on drugs based solely on monetary gain/loss.

When delving into Ethical Egoism, an entire different point of view is uncovered.  Everyone involved, by using each other as a means to an end, are gaining the most happiness through their mutual interest.  Again, by definition, this is a moral action because everyone’s self-interest is maximized.  Are there additional negatives surrounding this issue, however?  If there are complications that arise from treatment, who is the one at fault?  The companies should not put people at risk through untested medications.  The doctors should not fuel decisions based on anything but expertise on their practice.  People should not put themselves at risk by taking experimental pills.  Hypothetically all three parties could point the finger at each other.


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