An ethical dilemma (sci-fi bodyswap related)

I find the concept of physical transformation interesting, if you don’t that’s fine, but you may not want to read any further. :slight_smile:

The scenario is that in the near future a number of mysterious Stargate like objects have appeared in random locations around the world. They have different effects on people who pass through them, some act as teleports to similar Gates on other worlds or in different parts of Earth, others physically transform people who pass through them, decreasing their age, removing disease and so on, the effect is the same each time for an individual Gate.

A male cop (who is young, fairly attractive and healthy) is guarding a newly located virgin Gate, no-one has passed through it so its unknown what it does, suddenly a female protestor (also young, fairly attractive and healthy) runs forward from the crowd, the cop tackles her but they stagger and fall through the Gate together.

When they regain conciousness it is discovered that they have swapped bodies, he is now in her body and she is in his. Although initially shocked and disturbed he (I’m going to keep the same pronouns, it would probably get confusing otherwise) gradually comes to realise that he loves his new form, the protestor however hates hers and never adapts. A few months later she launches a legal challenge demanding the return of her original body and that the cop should be forced to go through the Gate with her again in the hope that they will swap back to their original bodies. Needless to say he doesn’t want to do this. She states that she didn’t realise what effect the Gate would have and she would never have done it had she known.

What would be your judgement on this? Should he be forced to swap back or not, and why?

There is no gender subtext to this thread, feel free to make the cop female and the protestor male if you like, or even both the same gender, I just added the gender-swap thing as I thought it would be more interesting.

If at least one party is dissatisfied both have to try to re-swap because, given no one knew what this gate would do it was impossible to give consent beforehand.

If after the re-swap the male party still wants to be female he’ll have to find a person with a female body to swap with.

If it is reasonable to expect that another trip will swap them back, then I’d say it is fairly obvious that this should be made to happen. We don’t have exact precedents for this, but it seems right that one’s own original body is our own property, therefore, the guy is stealing her body if he refuses to swap back.

Since the question is phrased in terms of “swap back” then I think the only choice is to make them swap back.

The details of the OP leave it unclear whether the portals actually work that way, though. If we don’t know what going through a second time will do, then we should try to understand it before we send them back through. First, to ensure it’s safe, second, to ensure that it works like we think it will. If he’s not willing to be a guinea pig on this second trip through the portal, I’m not sure I want to force him to be part of it, and I’d look for volunteers or animal experiments before forcing a person through.

Do the gates generally have a consistent effect? Is it reasonable to assume a second trip through the gate for this specific pair will result in them transferring back into their original bodies? Or do the gates have semi-random effects and a second pass through the gate might turn them both into frogs rather than restoring them to their original bodies?

Thanks for the answers. :slight_smile:

Personally I would feel sympathetic for the cop, he’s already been forced into a situation not of his choosing. Should he really be further forced to swap back? He certainly didn’t consent to being changed and what happened to her is her own fault.

Agreed that if we were certain that if they went through again they would be swapped back and he could then look for a female volunteer to go through with him again would be reasonable. But its making pretty big assumptions and I’m not sure he owes her that. What if instead another woman agrees to swap with the protestor, she wouldn’t get her original body back, but at least she would be female again.

I just think that that she’s messed up his life badly enough already, through no fault of his own and it seems that he is now to be punished for it twice.

“the effect is the same each time for an individual Gate” :slight_smile:

Sorry that was probably worded a little ambiguously. I would say that the effect has been the same each time so far, but humanity would really be messing with a technology they don’t understand in this situation, who is to say that this time it wouldn’t have a different effect?

From your OP

He tackled her - he’s got to take at least partial responsibility. It’s not “no fault of his own” even though it may have been unintentional.

He’s a police officer, he was just doing his job, trying to prevent her doing something dangerous. What if he had stood back, let her run through and something horrible had happened to her as a consequence?

Doesn’t matter. He’s got something that isn’t his - it doesn’t even matter that it was forced on him.

Suppose there were no such thing as GenderSwapGates and this was the scenario:

She parks her in a remote place behind a bush, then walks out onto a nearby road and pretends to be in distress. The cop pulls over and gets out of his cop car - she knocks him unconscious and drives off in the cop car.
He later regains consciousness and can’t find his car. After a search of the area, he finds her hidden car with the keys in it - he uses this car to get back to the city and on the way, he decides he likes her car better than his own car at home.

OK, it’s not exactly the same deal, but the principle is the same - he doesn’t get to keep it. Its not his.

Well one difference is that returning a car doesn’t require being unwillingly forced to go through a potentially dangerous and little understood process. Sure it will probably function as expected, but thats an awfully big assumption to make. You’re asking someone to bet their life and body because of someone else’s actions. I’m playing devils advocate here, but I do think its not quite as simple as you propose.

Anyway, possession is 9/10th’s of the law. :wink:

Edited to add: And I’m curious who it was that voted ‘No’.

Yeah, I saw that, but you also phrase the woman’s request as being “in the hope that” which implies to me that people don’t know if going through a second time will work or not. Just covering my bases in responding.

Yes, sorry, I wrote the OP quickly, this is why I’m not a lawyer :slight_smile:

And its bedtime here, thanks for the responses everyone, nightie!

Too tired to do it myself right now, but, if you could, it might be interesting to see what parts of the story you could change to make it where people would not mostly say Yes.

Like, what if there was only a 90% chance that it would swap them back? Or what if the woman had known exactly what it would do and orchestrated the whole thing, but then regretted it later?

Stuff like that.

You stated “the effect is the same each time for an individual Gate” - implying a sense of reliability to the process. If there’s considerable risk, then I guess the answer might be different, but hypothetical risk within a wholly hypothetical sci-fi scenario is probably too much nesting for me to make a meaningful reply.

They should swap back, but beforehand he should go get an embarrassing tattoo and not tell her. :slight_smile:

If they have sex (I mean, just to relieve the tension) while swapped, then when they swap back to their original bodies, it turns out she’s pregnant… well, I was thinking I’d have a question to end that sentence with, but… nothing.

IMHO she does not get her body back. She has to live with the result of her actions. Indeed, since she is likely now in a men’s prison after a conviction for assault or worse, such a suit could be seen as a pretext for being moved to a women’s prison and thus better treatment.

I just want to know what happens if you go through that gate by yourself.

You grow hair on your palms.

Or maybe go blind.