Later, the accusation of ineffectiveness and dangers of vaccines were introduced. The problem of vaccination is very ambiguous as there are both advantages and disadvantages, even both enormous benefits and severe risks, in this practice. On the one hand, vaccination is one of the greatest achievements in medicine, which annually prevents millions of deaths. However, there is also a thought that some vaccines, for example, against mumps or rubella, can provoke autism or other dangerous physical and mental health problems (Holland, 2015). In today's world, many parents refuse to inoculate their children not to cause modifications in normal body functions. This prime essay paper aims at analyzing the controversial question of the moral side of vaccination from the viewpoint of Kant's ethics, Mill's utilitarian approach, and Kwame Appiah's philosophy. The social and moral aspects of vaccination are a subject of discussion that does not center on the professional competence of medical professionals but requires professional philosophical and ethical expertise.
Kant's Ethics and the Problem of Vaccination
Immanuel Kant never wrote the essays on the problems of medicine as a science, but his critical philosophy, which emerged in the end of the eighteenth century, was highly influential in the field of medical theory. With the help of Kant's ethics, it is possible to formulate the grounds that could serve as the chief purposes of medical practice. Kant was attentive and receptive to social and ethical sides of medical practices, which is confirmed by his reflections on smallpox vaccination (Holland, 2015). Kant raised the casuistic question whether the vaccine was permissible from a moral point of view. When Kant lived, the cases of death due to immunization were common. Therefore, the problem arose from the conflict between the results of vaccination and the duty of self-preservation, in favor of which Kant cited the arguments based on the principles of his ethical theory. He believed that anyone, who decided to inoculate smallpox, was risking life, although that action was intended to preserve it (Holland, 2015). It means that those people faced a difficult case of the law of duty, since they received the disease, exposing their lives to danger.
Kant expressed serious concerns about vaccination due to the ambiguity regarding the effectiveness and success of vaccinations. He stressed that with the insufficiently guaranteed success of treatment and in the case of possible fatal outcome, not only should an individual act, but the government of the state should also contribute to resolve the problem (Holland, 2015). In fact, Kant referred to an inadequate level of science and medical practice in his considerations of vaccinations being morally unacceptable. He tried to solve the moral problem by involving the government.
People should understand that there are many reasons against child inoculation as the use of vaccines on children can cause not only autism but also various physical and mental abnormalities. If vaccination was an obligation, the medical practice would be morally wrong according to bioethics, in the context of which immunization should be considered in terms of respect for the autonomy of patient's personality. It is clear that the issue of informed consent to vaccination is primarily related to the risk that it may pose to the patient. By informing the parents about the probability of postvaccinal complications to their child, a doctor not only shows respect for the patients' moral autonomy but also seeks to share moral responsibility with them (Holland, 2015). According to the Kantian moral principle, it is not morally right for every child to be vaccinated.
Vaccination should not be compulsory as every person is an individual, who cannot be forced to be inoculated in order to maintain the good of society. It is particularly unacceptable in the twenty-first century when people struggle for their rights and freedoms of opinion and action in medicine. Considering the freedoms of children, who are mostly subjected to vaccination, it is obvious that they do not have the right to choose. Consequently, it is morally wrong to make a decision for them. Unfortunately, it is difficult to estimate what consequences this principle would bring to the society. If this moral principle was the rule for everyone, people would understand that their right of choice is respected as the authoritarian model does not correspond to the new system of power relations that are emerging in medicine. In the modern society, people would prefer that this rule is followed by everyone as many children would not be subjected to dangerous postvaccinal illnesses. However, on the other hand, when the disease can be dangerous to the society and parents choose to refuse inoculation of their child due to the right of choice, a health worker should make efforts to persuade a patient of the need for urgent vaccination.
Mill's Utilitarian Approach to Inoculation
The foundation for John Stuart Mill's utilitarian theories is that they embody the moral evaluation of an action, its consequences, utility, or harm. From this point of view, the defining element of an action is its purpose. It is argued that, from a utilitarian point of view, the outcome justifies the means or the positive consequences allow one to justify even immoral actions. In other words, an act is correct if it is useful. One of the common formulas, used to express the essence of utilitarianism, conveys the need to provide the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people (Shafer-Landau, 2012). This statement, however, does not disclose the main position of utilitarianism. Particularly, it recognizes a single ethical principle – the principle of utility.
Applying utilitarian principle to the moral issue of vaccination, the philosophers believe that people should always act in order to achieve the perfect balance between positive and negative consequences of inoculation. If one analyzes the impact of a vaccine, which may lead to adverse side effects, then the question of whether to vaccinate a person should be discussed (Shafer-Landau, 2012). If the decision is made in favor of inoculation, it should be clear which categories of the population should be vaccinated. Thus, it will directly correspond to the standpoint of utilitarianism.
According to the teaching, what is useful for one person can be harmful for another. In this regard, the notion of maximum benefit becomes a value that is recognized by all, regardless of differences in opinions. For example, health can be an intrinsic value, which has the good nature and does not influence other values, while vaccination can only be an instrumental value, which is ineffective and does not bring anything good (Shafer-Landau, 2012). Utilitarianism can support the law that requires parents to make sure that their children receive vaccinations to prevent bad diseases. However, the risk of disease for different population groups should be determined, as well as the likelihood of complications and how dangerous they are. On these grounds, people should calculate which of the alternatives is more preferable.
The choice in favor of vaccination is justified if the chosen option generates more good than any of other alternatives. If the state cares about the well-being and health of the whole country, putting individual preferences of each citizen into the background, the law should require all children to be vaccinated against dangerous diseases. If people do not support child vaccination in the period of possible epidemic, they should know that according to utilitarianism, the cancellation of mandatory nature of inoculation may lead to a decrease in the maximum benefit and the welfare of the state or even the whole world, since the number of vaccinated can be reduced to a level that does not guarantee the safety of the society.
Kwame Appiah's Philosophy on Immunization
A British philosopher, who deals with the issues of morality, Kwame Appiah defends the universal role of the vaccines, for example, a vaccine against smallpox as it saves people's lives. He refuses to consider that there could be a problem with expanding vaccine schedule. Appiah says that anti-vaccination movement is not rational (Fassin, 2012). In many small societies, especially in rural areas, parents reject child vaccinations on religious grounds. The proponents of this position explain the reluctance to receive vaccines with the help of various religious dogmas. For example, they refer to the inadmissibility of human intervention in providence or of the cultivation of ingredients on embryonic cells. Those who participate in the anti-vaccination movement often confuse religious problems with purely scientific and medical practices; they try to consider inoculation through the prism of religion.
According to Appiah's view, parents have the primary responsibility for medical decisions, including immunization. They have the right to decide whether to do it or not, while the children are under their care. Moreover, they should know that after the introduction of mandatory vaccinations, the number of diseases, previously spread around the planet, has significantly decreased (Fassin, 2012). Vaccination is a powerful means of preventing infectious diseases.
The freedom of choice is an integral part of modern society; however, the lives of many people around the world cannot be endangered in case of the possible emergence of an epidemic. It means that the governments should make the brave efforts to inoculate population of smaller communities that can pose a real threat not only to a particular country but to the whole world. Societies should not be deprived of child vaccinations. A country that thinks that children deserve protection from severe diseases should influence a community, in which most people are against vaccinations due to the religious prejudices. In fact, at the increasing risk of epidemic, larger and more influential countries should have the right to impose their morality on the smaller ones in order to avoid irreversible consequences.
The question about the moral aspect of vaccination concerns everyone in the world. In fact, the attitude towards this controversial issue has divided people into supporters and opponents of immunization. There are numerous disputes and different opinions that have been expressed since the introduction of the first vaccine against smallpox. The issue of the moral admissibility of vaccinations is extremely ambiguous and difficult to resolve for the absolute majority of ethical traditions, excluding the most straightforward version of utilitarianism. Thus, Immanuel Kant's ethics condemns compulsory vaccination as this medical practice should be purely voluntary and everyone has the right to decide what to choose. On the contrary, the philosopher, Kwame Appiah, defends moral and social admissibility of universal immunization programs. According to John Stuart Mill's utilitarian approach, the decision for or against vaccination should be made in accordance with the calculation of its utility and harm to the society.