The Technological Imperative and Medicine

  • Dennis Lee Sansom Samford University
Keywords: Medical technology, ethics, teleological ethics, preferential utilitarianism


The success of technology in medicine has created a dilemma for its continual use and improvement.  Technology has greatly improved medicine’s diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities, but to do so, it has to objectify patients into organism that follow machine-like laws.  The more technology succeeds, the more the patient’s personal identity as a temporal, relational, and spiritual being is diminished.  Furthermore, technology’s success creates an imperative to continue to use and improve it, and, consequently, to diminish the patient's personal identity.  Therefore, our use of technology must be guided by ethical considerations.  Preferential utilitarianism cannot provide this guidance, because it can only react to the results of technology; it cannot define an aim for these results.  Medicine needs a teleological ethic that guides its use of technology towards the health of patients and the fuller purposes of human life.