Ethical Dilemma

The article by Pashman and Perez (2015) explains a decision by Wheaton College to cease offering students health insurance in order to avoid violating Obamacare, which requires insurers to offer coverage for birth control.  Wheaton College was founded on Christian values that ban some forms of contraception. Specifically, the institution does not support FDA-approved morning pills and intrauterine devices since its religious beliefs equate use of these contraceptives as abortion.  

However, Wheaton College is mandated by the Affordable Care Act to provide birth control to students it gives coverage to. In order to avoid undermining its catholic values and breaking the law, the college opted to stop offering insurance and it passed this responsibility to other health insurance firms. This paper holds the position that Wheaton College acted ethically.  The philosophical approach that will be used to analyze the case is Kant’s deontological approach. Through applying this approach, it will be clear that Wheaton College performed a right ethical and moral decision. 

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Ethical Issues Facing the Institution

There are two ethical issues facing Wheaton College. The first issue is the requirement by the Affordable Care Act regarding provision of birth control, which is in direct violation of the religious beliefs held by the institution.  Whereas Obamacare requires health insurers to provide birth control to patients who need them, the protestant faith that guides the values of Wheaton College do not support use of certain birth control techniques. The second issue is the stoppage in healthcare coverage by Wheaton College, which may adversely affect the health outcomes of the college’s population. These two conflicting issues have resulted in an ethical dilemma which forced the institution to stop offering healthcare insurance to students. 

Application of Kant’s Deontology

This is an ethical viewpoint developed by Immanuel Kant that is used to guide ethical decision making (Pashman & Perez, 2015). One of the guiding principles of this approach is that ethical or moral actions are those which are done out of a sense of duty. Kant’s deontology does not analyze the consequences of actions when determining whether they are moral or not; it assesses the motivations that made a person to act. Moreover, a moral person is one whose motivation to act is guided by his/her duty to society. For instance, fire-fighters have a duty to protect the lives and property of people through fighting fire, and every time they respond to a hazard, then they perform moral actions since they are fulfilling their duty to society (Waller, 2015). 

In the case on Wheaton College, its primary duty is to the college founders and stakeholders who provide its vision. It has a duty to implement the values that define the organizational culture at the school, while protecting the interests of stakeholders. Wheaton College was founded on the platform of strong Christian roots that have led to its success. The college should therefore perform its duty to its founders through adhering to its Protestant teachings that forbid certain use of birth control. If it violates these principles and allows issuance of birth control to students, it will have failed in its moral duty to its founders and other stakeholders.
Moreover, Wheaton College also has a duty to follow the regulations of the Affordable Care Act which mandates health insurance providers to avail birth control coverage to their clients. If the college fails to adhere to these regulations, then it may face legal liability and it will have failed in its duty to the founders and its stakeholders. Under these difficult circumstances, the most viable option would be to cease offering health insurance to students. This is the most effective option since it will enable Wheaton College to fulfil its duty to the founders. It will not only adhere to the Protestant values regarding the use of birth control, but it will also avoid breaking the Affordable Care Act regulations and facing legal liability. The college therefore made a correct ethical and moral decision based on Kant’s deontology.  


Wheaton College faces a difficult ethical dilemma regarding adhering to its Christian principles and following the Affordable Care Act regulations on the issue of birth control.  The Protestant values that the college supports do not condone certain forms of birth control. To balance between these competing demands, Wheaton College stopped giving healthcare services to students. Based on Kant’s deontology where moral actions are judged by one’s duty to society, the college made a right moral and ethical decision to refrain from health coverage. This is because it has a duty to its founders to adhere to the values that they developed and to follow regulations that guide the education sector. When the college stopped offering healthcare coverage, it attained a solution to both issues it faced; it was able to conform to the Christian values n birth control, and it was able to conform to the law without breaching the Affordable Care Act regulations. Wheaton College therefore took the morally and ethically right action. 


Beauchamp, T. L. (2011). Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy. New 

York: McGraw Hill.

Pashman, M. B. & Perez, A. (2015). No more health insurance, Wheaton tells students

Chicago Tribune

Waller, B. N. (2015). Consider Ethics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues. New 

York: Pearson Longman.

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