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Ebola, Ann Coutler, and Virtue Ethics



Kent Brantly’s gradual recovery from Ebola infection is heartening news, for many people across North America are quite inspired by the example of his courageous medical care on behalf of the thousands in West Africa who suffer from this disease – one that carries an eighty percent risk of death. Clearly Dr. Brantly’s sudden notoriety came as a total surprise. He would not have begun his two-year commitment to the people of Liberia with any expectation of personal gain other than an occasional ‘thank you’ and a sense of internal satisfaction. Columnist Ann Coutler, by contrast, is outspokenly critical of Dr. Brantly professional focus on Africa instead of the United States, “If he had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”


This confrontation brings us to an intriguing analysis of ethics. Virtue Ethics stresses the importance of one’s personal character. Motives and individual dedication are paramount, and measurable outcomes are less significant than faithfulness to one’s vision. Dr. Brantly represents Virtue Ethics in action. Consequentialism, by contrast, is the ethical perspective that outcomes – or consequences – are paramount; that good intentions or personal commitment are less important than are the actual results. Ann Coutler’s position is Consequentialism in motion.


Which ethical orientation is correct or most appropriate? Please share your opinion with my by writing to [email protected]


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