Merck and river blindness are a good example for Utilitarianism theory because the results brought happiness for both the company and the people. Utilitarianism is an ethical framework that focuses on the outcomes or results of actions. In fact, its name comes from the Greek word Telos, which means “end. ” The two most influential developers of the utilitarian viewpoint were Englishmen Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873).

Under this framework, acting ethically means making decisions and taking actions that benefit people by maximizing “good” and minimizing “bad. ” Outcomes, results, or goals are the focus—not the action taken to achieve them. Utilitarians facing an ethical dilemma ask, “What is my goal? What outcome should I aim for? ” River blindness (onchocerciasis) is a parasitic disease, a worm affecting millions of people, mostly in Africa.

Until the late 1980s, there was no magic bullet against the worm, Onchocerca volvulus. The available drugs had serious side effects and the sick, mostly poor villagers, couldn’t afford drugs anyway. River blindness control usually involved spraying insecticides to kill the blackflies that spread the infection, but the insects developed resistance to the poisons. A dreadful human parasite raged on.

The choice to make the drug available for free is utilitarian, as the number of affected individuals worldwide greatly outweigh the number of negatively impacted stockholders. In doing so, Dr. Vagelos choice also illustrates his belief that people are entitled to the right of humane treatment by others. Similarly, his choice reveals every person’s obligation to protect and ensure these rights. Dr. Vagelos decision is also just and fair, in that all members of a group (in this case, the human race) are to be treated with equal benefits.