Poll: What is the most ethical answer to each question?
1 - A, 2 - A (see below)
1 - A, 2 - B (see below)
1 - B, 2 - A (see below)
1 - B, 2 - B (see below)
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An Ethical Dilemma
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16-06-2012, 07:44 PM
An Ethical Dilemma
Ethical Question #1

You stand before two rooms. The left room contains 5 people, and in a few minutes a deadly gas will consume this room, killing all 5 of them. The room on the right contains 1 person, who will be perfectly fine as the others are gassed unless you flip a switch that sends the gas into his room instead, killing him and sparing the 5. Do you flip the switch?

A. Yes
B. No

Ethical Question #2

You are a hospital administrator. You have 5 patients who will all die soon due to various faulty organs. There is no way to get the organs you need unless you kill a perfectly healthy man in the waiting room who happens to have 5 compatible, healthy organs. Do you kill the man?

A. Yes
B. No

If you read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, you're probably familiar with these questions. I don't think they were posed exactly like this, but similarly. People were surveyed to find what they would do, and the results were surprising. Most people overwhelmingly chose option A on the first question and B on the second question. Why? On the face, they're basically the same question: Would you take action to save the lives of 5 people by killing 1 person?

From an ethical standpoint, A or B can be considered ethical. Utilitarians -- those who value the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people -- would go with A in both situations. Deontologists -- those who value a moral guideline such as the golden rule -- would go with B in both situations. Neither viewpoint is "wrong", and since they both conflict here, it's debatable. But why would we change our standard of ethics from one to the other? Most of us do it, and it boggles the mind.

Anyway, I'm doing a poll here too. Let me know what you chose and why, and explain what the big difference between the two situations is if you can think of one.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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16-06-2012, 09:10 PM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
Well I think I'd like to know a bit about these people first please.
ie: If in the first question there were 5 rapists/murderers etc.. in the first room and Gandhi in the second, Gandhi's getting saved.

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16-06-2012, 09:16 PM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
Wow, that made me think. I believe the difference is, I would kill 1 person to save 5 in the first question because you are talking about some sort of sadistic person in control, asking you to choose who dies by human hands (the poison gas)

The second is who do you choose to save based on genetic or general health issues, and in that way they are different, unless you believe in God, then you can say in both cases there is a sadistic person in control of the situation.

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16-06-2012, 09:16 PM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
I hope my above post made sense. I'm a bit drunk right now.

Why are you still reading this line when it is obviously my signature line?
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16-06-2012, 11:00 PM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
I'm so glad there is no omnipotent being who could put us into these situations. I would pick A in both scenarios, but I thank Ketola that I will never be faced with either. That would suck to say the least.
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17-06-2012, 12:17 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
B, B, and A. Where the last is, do you kill the person asking you these stupid questions? Big Grin

There ain't no mystery to me. Most people are "hands-off" killers in that if they're removed from the deed, they can justify it in their puny little minds, but up close and personal, why, that's murder! Scandalous mofos. Big Grin

Although it is better, imo, to consider "greater good" in terms of ethics. Morally speaking, a mofo flapping his gums about "greater good" is a snarky little relativist no matter what his excuse. Peeps may think it's whack, my Gwynnie thing, but the moral clarity is absolute. All you mofos ain't worth my Gwynnies. Big Grin

Peeps don't give joule to a neuron, wtf they're preserving, they go on about "saving lives." Get all uppity on the front end, all pro-life and shit; but when there's alla sudden a hundred extra people around, they're like, not in my house. Scandalous mofos, people. Big Grin

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17-06-2012, 12:19 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
The two scenarios have different circumstences.

If I have no choice on the matter and I must choose, I'd go for A in the first scenario depending on the nature of these people.
As for second, I dunno. I mean as a doctor you have no right to do such a thing.
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17-06-2012, 12:19 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
It's an immediate question and on that, I go with the sure thing. The most livable at the moment of decision. B on both. Shocking



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17-06-2012, 01:35 AM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2012 10:14 AM by ahoy.)
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
I think Q1 is a real dilemma while Q2 is not.

Q1. A, choosing the lesser of 2 evil.
Q2. B, illegal and immoral.
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17-06-2012, 06:57 AM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2012 07:01 AM by Hafnof.)
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
The biological morality here is as hoc says that the more hands off you are in the killing the easier it is to choose to kill. That said, it's not a completely misinformed instinct. As ahoy says in the first one you have a lever where two otherwise presumably equal groups differ in number. Your hand is on the lever that decides which group "get it". By either leaving your hand in place or moving it you're still making a decision as to who will die. All other things being equal I couldn't fault a man who flipped the switch from "kill 5" to "kill 1".


Me I sit near the borderline on that one. There are a number of subtleties that could push me in either direction. What is my role? Why am I there? Why are these people there? Did they know what they were getting into? A similar question is the rail cart problem where by diverting a rail cart you could save its 5 occupants but will kill the railway worker who is there on the tracks making repairs. Well, I work in railways. That bastard is trained in safety techniques, and he knows the risks both of being there and of his handling of the safety systems around his working area. The passengers are customers. I would flip that switch to save them and leave him with the chances he made for himself.

Another test is you have a big guy next to you on a bridge. You're pretty sure if you push him off in front of the rail cart you'll save those people. Would I do it? No I wouldn't. Would I tell him if he jumps he could save them? Maybe? The same consequentialist outcome results in either case, so why do I think there's a moral difference? My head says the answer is consent. A man on a railway track consented to being there and knew the risks. He consented to a dangerous job where the safety of passengers is paramount. The guy on the bridge even if he is a railway employee has done nothing to risk his life so far. I don't have the right to take his consent from him. Is my head covering for my biological instinct here? I can't rule that out.

For the second question I go with Ahoy: Killing someone without their consent to harvest their organs for people who either by nature or accident ended up short an organ or two is unethical. That's not just because of the doctor's Hippocratic oath. I'm not going to interfere with the machinery of the universe to change that course. I'm not going to put that on my ledger.

There is a broader consequental context here as well, and it comes back to the golden rule as hoc points out. I don't want to feel like I can't walk over a bridge without someone being there who might push me off in front of a rail car. I don't want to feel like I can't go to a hospital without being murdered for my juicy flesh parts. If people live in fear of doing normal things then they cannot trust their fellow man.

In contrast if I going onto the tracks I understand that I am taking some risks in doing that. I understand that I'm responsible for my own safety, and that if some idiot routes a train down my path it is my responsibility to ensure I get out of the way. It's my responsibility to set up the lookout and the detonators to ensure I have enough time to get out of the way. If I visit the home of an evil madman I bear some responsibility should gas start leaking in the room in which I stand.

To expand upon the golden rule here, it's not just that I want to do as I would be done to me. I want to also be confident that good people will not do bad things to me without consent. Evil people doing evil things to me is OK. That's a risk we all have to deal with. Putting myself in situations of risk is OK. We all have to accept some risk in our lives and in our jobs. Putting myself in a situation where good people will take advantage of me and claim they make a morally superior choice to do so? That's bad form. That's the point where society breaks down because I can no longer trust the good men around me.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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