Utilitarianism, when dealing with the question of what is the best course of action for a whole group (community, country, society as whole, etc...), states that the maximum benefit for the maximum number of people should be the decision criteria. From the IEP article on the topic:
"The well-being of the group is simply the sum total of the interests of the all of its members."
But it seems to me that this would immediately lead to the justification of such scenarios as:
- Scientists are testing a new medical procedure or drug, and lab experiments or animal trials can't provide any conclusive results. It would then be ethical to force a small number of people to undergo clinical trials (with or without their consent), since this would lead to larger benefits to humanity as a whole.
- It would be ethical to euthanize severely disabled people, who cannot contribute meaningfully to society, and would require significant resources to be taken care of, since the people who have to take care of them would otherwise be happier. This would be especially true if they had no family who cared about them (i.e. whose happiness would be reduced by their death).
- Eugenics would be ethical.
And all sorts of similar situations were one could argue that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Situations which I call "ethical totalitarianism" (if there is a more accurate term please correct me).
My question is, how do utilitarians avoid justifying such scenarios? Or would a utilitarian say that these scenarios are indeed justified?