29 Jul 2022


How Society's Failures to Have Empathy and Compassion Contribute to Injustice

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Academic level: College

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The John Q movie represents an approach to ethics and morality using an unorthodox method to explain society's failures to have empathy and compassion. The film is about a man, John whose son Michael collapses during a baseball match due to an enlarged heart. The doctor says that the only chance of the boy surviving is surgery. The insurance will not meet the hospital's demand for 250,000 dollars. John and his wife, Denise, cannot raise the money, which prompts John to do the unthinkable act of holding an entire emergency room captive.

The scenarios are in open conflict with the societal ethics of justice and nonviolence. John violates both virtue ethics and duty ethics by failing to be a law-abiding citizen and holding a gun against innocent civilians even though he was not planning to shoot them. The theory of consequentialism can be used in defense of John's actions (Gluchman, 2017). According to the theory, the morality of an action is judged by the consequences of the action. If the goals are noble, then the action is justifiable. John prompts the viewers to contemplate the concept of a necessary evil. From an ethical and moral standpoint, John was wrong to hold a gun against sick people, doctors, and the nurses and the act of beating up the sniper is vilifiable.

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However, it is admirable and honorable that the goal of the hostage situation was to ensure that his son gets to bury his father and not the other way round. It is the desire of any parent not to have to bury his child. John only acts as any responsible parent would in such a situation. The medical insurance is the villain in the film and not John. The HMO slashed the medical cover for John and refused to cover Michael’s procedure. Had the insurance agency covered the transplant, the hostage situation would have been avoided. HMOs and private healthcare organizations have been accused of putting money interests above their sworn duty to promote human wellness by providing quality healthcare services. In the film, the hospital and the insurer fail to live to their code of professionalism. The administrator recommends that Michael be given the quality of life option despite knowing that the boy needed surgery.

Both Denise and John failed to uphold general ethics. As a patriot, Denise ought to have reported her husband’s intentions to the authorities. Moreover, she pushed her husband into resorting to taking the emergency room and its occupants hostage. However, she cannot be outrightly being said to be a protagonist because her actions are fueled by the motherly desire to see her child healthy again. Therefore it can be said that morals are flexible to a certain degree (Gluchman, 2017). However, if action is pursued to fulfill personal desires and not the populace's general well-being, such a move is unethical and morally wrong.


Gluchman, V. (2017). GE Moore and theory of moral/right action in the ethics of social consequences. Ethics & Bioethics 7 (1-2), 57-65.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 17). How Society's Failures to Have Empathy and Compassion Contribute to Injustice .


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