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Ethical Analysis: “John Q” Film

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“John Q “  is one of the most significant movies featuring ethical dilemmas. It focuses on John Quincy and his family. Throughout the movie display of love father to a son is evident when John goes the extra mile to break the law and save his son. John is the protagonist’s character in the movie (William, 2015). The story in the film narrates about John’s financial constraints resulting from his son’s critical health situation. He is a nine-year-old son and is desperately in need of medical attention. Upon taking him to the hospital, John and his wife are informed that his son has a severe health condition and required an urgent operation. The hospital cannot operate on him unless John provides for the required funds; health insurance could not cover the operation because it too expensive. When John discovered the insurance could not cover and could do it himself after trying all the possible options, he decides to take the hospital hostage and demand his son’s treatment. 

John’s action to break the law and take the hospital hostage shows love for a facility and a critical ethical dilemma. Although his action demonstrates the ethical situation of destructive justice pertaining to healthcare, it portrays the ethical shortcomings of healthcare management. The most unified theory that can explain this dilemma is the virtue ethics theory, which focuses on the role of a character in action. The theory is based on the person performing the action where their moral view of action supersedes the consequences of the action (BBC, 2014). It is clear that John had tried all means to ensure that his son gets treated, but he could not, therefore the option and the right option, according to him, was to take the hospital hostage and demand the treatment. Even though he broke the law and other ethical perspectives, the virtue of ethics justifies the validity of his action; he saved his son’s life which renders his action ethically correct under virtue ethics.

Ethical Analysis

The movie is filled with a significant ethical dilemma throughout the story; it provides insights into the deep meaning of ethics in different perspectives and life situations. It illustrates the ethical relevance of love in a family regardless of the existing code of practice in healthcare systems. Besides, the hospital is faced with critical ethical decision-making as they execute John’s demands. Additionally, the films display the ethical standards used to deal with scarcity and resource allocation. The hospital presents an ethically questionable and controversial model of managing scarcity and allocating resources. One would wonder why the hospital must refuse to conduct the operation despite the dying need of it. John’s action summarizes and gives a conclusion to address the ethical dilemma at hand. 

The virtue theory of ethics helps to explain John’s take and its ethical rationale. John manifests a moral choice to save his child. The theory emphasizes an individual’s character as the central aspect of ethical thinking instead of the action in question (Morris & Morris, 2016). Therefore, the role that ohn plays in this situation is justifiable in theory. Under the theory, John is viewed as a good character based on his situation. Therefore, it was morally right to take action.   

Moral Values 

As a different individual situation helps develop beliefs and values, these ethical elements describe a person. The dilemmatic situation reflects on the values of ethical beliefs. The film presents plenty of moral values when it comes to dilemmatic situations (William, 2015). John mirrors the moral approach to an ethical situation as a virtue of ethics due to his dilemma. Although the action implies legal consequences, he saves his own which is morally and contextually right (BBC, 2014). Virtue ethics promotes a character’s clear motives to choose to save life regardless of the consequences of the action.  Besides, it is a moral responsibility for a father to protect their children; as an individual character described under the theory, John takes a moral decision to solve the problem. 

Moral Values in Conflict


Virtue ethics theory considers the action moral; however, one of the significant moral conflicts presented in the film is the decision of the hospital to refuse to treat John’s son despite being a point of losing his life. First, it raises the question of whether it is morally to let a person die because of the set policies in the healthcare setting where people’s lives are saved. The son would have died if John could not have taken the hospital hostage, yet they have the necessary resources to address his medical needs. Secondly is John’s action to force the staff to treat his son against their will and organizational policies. Despite his actions being justifiable under the virtue of ethics, he could not explain the moral aspect of denying staff their liberty of wellness to practice medicine (Morris & Morris, 2016).  The healthcare organization provides guidelines of practice that require the patient to pay money or claim to cover prior treatment. Staff must follow the rules and be willing to provide treatment under the set policies. Ethics of practice requires staff to follow these rules; however, there are conflicts of moral values because the situation is a matter of life and death, and the organization can save his son. 

Moral Guidance

Virtue ethics theory provides valuable insights to guide audiences define ethical dilemmas presented in the film. Since the theory is based on an individual rather than the action in question, it explains John’s position as an individual rather than the course of action he chooses to address the issue and the consequences. Based on the theory, John could be characterized as a good person; taking the risk to save his son’s life is morally right (William, 2015). The theory also provides guidelines on what should not be limited the policies, individual life is more important, and what the healthcare is opted to save at all times.  


The film is an important material to help understand the virtue of ethics and the role of a person in an ethical dilemma. The film considerably reflects the virtue ethics theory; the positions of John and other entities, including the doctors and the healthcare management, could be explained clearly through the theory to define ethical views. John’s decision to take the hospital hostage in favor of his son’s life is ultimately ethical. Healthcare has a set of policies that raise ethical dilemmas for a situation of life and death, which can only be addressed ethically as John did. The set policies to deny a dying person right to receive medication in the account of lack of funds is not moral. 

Throughout this film and the ethical analysis, I have learned that there is a situation where the individual decision and course of action dominates the ethical standards, as outlined by virtue ethics theory throughout the film. I also learned that we should not be limited to set policies to define our ethical views but instead consider the situation and urgency. Additionally, I learned that parents have a moral responsibility to protect their children regardless of consequences that underscore moral standards.  Moreover, when dealing with resource allocation issues and scarcity, it is essential to consider ethical challenges that may accrue in an emergency where life matters to avoid controversial circumstances. Society sometimes provides rules that are blind to moral values. It is evident in the film that the people’s decisions should not be judged by the possible outcomes of the law but the decisions and actions that reflect what is morally right based on a given circumstance.  



BBC. (2014). Virtue Ethics. BBC.

Morris, M. C., & Morris, J. Z. (2016). The importance of virtue ethics in the IRB. Research Ethics12(4), 201-216.

William. (2015). John Q Analysis: Ethical & Moral Dilemmas.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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