Moral dilemma from the movie 'Alive' (*not* re cannibalism)

Its been a very long time since I watched this movie but one scene in particular occassionally resurfaces in my mind, if I’m misremembering I apologise in advance.

Anyway, the plane has crashed and one of the passengers has entered the cockpit to find the pilot crushed, freezing and in terrible pain. The pilot requests that the passenger gives him a handgun stored in the cockpit so he can put himself out of his misery. The passenger replies, “No my friend, I can’t be any part of that” and leaves him to die slowly.

Now in this scenario help is definitely not coming and I personally disagreed with the passengers actions, I may not have shot him myself but I would certainly have given him the handgun.

What is your opinion on what the correct course of action would have been and why?

At minimum the passenger was a coward–no, make that a fucking coward–who put his own moral comfort and possible belief in magical sky pixies ahead of what was obviously the better, moral, more merciful course of action. At worst he was a sadistic nutjob.

ETA: The poll wasn’t up when I began my post, so I didn’t see the option of putting the pilot of his misery myself. As you describe the scene I think it’s not necessary, as apparently it was within the pilot’s power to kill himself; but assuming your description of the scene is accurate (rescuing the pilot is impossible for anyone not named “Clark Kent,” he is in horrible pain and doomed to die, and he wishes to be put out of his misery), I’d feel obliged to do the deed myself if he could not.

I would have a hard time not being hopeful that help would soon arrive, at least initially. So assuming I was in a pretty good shape, I would search the wreckage for booze, pain killers, cocaine, et al. Anything that would ease the man’s suffering until the helcopters arrived.

But if I can’t find anything and the guy is screaming for mercy, then I’d probably be shaken enough to give him the gun. It’s not me pulling the trigger, and I’d have witnesses who’d vouch for me. And at the risk of sounding like a jackass, having to listen to hours of screaming and wailing and pleading would likely make everyone crazy.

I watched this movie with my dad when I was quite young, his reaction was pretty much as yours, I was surprised as he’s a quiet, gentle, man and I’d rarely heard him display such vitriol before.

As I recall the scene he was in a very bad way and may have been capable of shooting himself but may have made a hash of it. I was reluctant to state it in the OP as I was unsure how the thread would go but I probably would have shot him myself. Though you’d have to make sure nobody saw you do it or was aware you did it as you might have some awkward questions to answer back in civilisation.

He wasn’t screaming, he could barely get his request out, he obviously wasn’t going to live long but even that was too long for him.

Though I agree with you that it may not have been so obvious to the passengers as to the viewers that help wasn’t going to come, though they did go down in an isolated mountain range.

I think the SDMB consensus is that you must fire a warning shot first, but only if the pilot is covered in glue. Or something.


Is this scene taken from factual occurrence? Or was it written (or puffed) for the movie?

Isn’t there a scene like this in The Great Waldo Pepper? A friend crashes his biplane, is trapped and burning to death, and Waldo clouts him with a board or a baseball bat or something, killing him or at least rendering him unconscious?


Sorry, but you are speaking with the benefit of 42 years of hindsight that the passenger didn’t have at the moment this was happening.

I can guarantee you the passenger wasn’t thinking “Well, it’s going to be 72 days before Parrado and Canessa walk out of the cordillera, but I still can’t do this.” It was more like “Damn, those rescue planes better show up if this guy is going to have a chance!”

Please note the pilot died in the crash and the co-pilot died that first night.

Did this encounter, or anything much like it, actually happen? As in, not just in the movie version?

It’s been a while since I read Reid’s book, but the co-pilot died after the crash, during the first night so it is possible it happened. The pilot died in the crash or very soon thereafter.

This is my thought as well. Part of my brain (even if only the part in denial) will be saying “They’ll miss me right away. Help could be here in just a matter of hours!”

I’m also no medic, and I can’t really judge the difference between imminent death and painful/gruesome, but survivable.

So I would certainly explore every option outside of death first. However, I’ve also said before on these forums that I’m actually not as bothered by death as I am by pain. Given the facts in the movie, I would eventually become convinced that killing him or helping him kill himself is the right thing to do.

(And you didn’t ask about it, but I’d be practically the first person out there eating dead people. It’s a survival situation and my biggest qualms with eating them is the possible transmission of disease.)

Oh boy, won’t you have egg on your face when the rescue helicopter turns up a couple of hours after the crash… :wink:

But seriously in that situation I wouldn’t have any particular moral qualms about it either.

Other, try to comfort the guy, find a way to put him to sleep (maybe even with a sleeper hold if need be) or something else like that.

Yes, it actually happened in that one of the pilots were alive when the survivors reached the cockpit and was able to speak with them, and the man was horribly injured, crushed, and dying. It’s been nearly 20 years since I read the book so I don’t recall all the details.

You really shouldn’t judge Roberto Canessa’s reticence until you’re forced to make that kind of choice yourself.

I did vote “A”, only because I think I could do it, and live with the moral consequence afterwards. But it’s no surprise that “A” is the least popular option – most people, I think, would have an extremely hard time living with that choice, even if logic dictates it was truly the best option.

That’s not egg.

However, “logic” doesn’t dictate that killing the man is the best option. “Logic” would tell a plane crash survivor* that rescue attempts are likely forthcoming and that, if they got there soon enough, perhaps they could help with the pilot.

*Assuming the guy is in full possession of his senses and intellect, which is not what one expects minutes after crashing in the Andes, with friends and family injured, dying, and dead all around you.

If I thought, or could reasonably hope, that rescue would get there in time to do any good, I wouldn’t give him the gun, and I’d try to get him to hold on.

But if I didn’t expect rescue, and/or the man’s wounds were too horrifically, obviously unsurvivable—like he’s laying in five pieces on the floor, and what’s left of the head is begging me to shoot it—I’d give him the gun, or pull the trigger myself.

Both pilots died within 12-18 hours of the crash - one during the crash, the other during the first night. In total, 5 people died during the crash and 5 people died within 24 hours. There was little expectation among the survivors that they weren’t going to get rescued and I am surprised that many here claim they, in a similar situation, would just start killing the already-mortally wounded “out of mercy”.

Just to be clear, the passenger was not aware that they were going to spend 70 days in the Andes at the moment he made this decision and, at that time this scenario occurred, was fully expecting to be rescued. That belief in itself would be enough to give most people pause in this scenario.

I watched the first hour of the movie recently (having never seen it before but being familiar with the story). In the movie the pilot was shown with essentially only his head visible and the remainder of his body trapped in the crushed cockpit. So in that scenario I don’t think option#2 (give him the gun) would have been an option. I considered #1 - after all the pilot would know there is a chance of imminent rescue but realized there was no hope for him and that the only thing remaining for him was agony before he died - but I just don’t think I could have done it in the situation presented. So in the end I took the same choice as portrayed in the movie. Before seeing the movie I was not able to really appreciate the horrific situation in which they found themselves and find it truly amazing they were able to survive.