Parents - would you sacrifice SOMEONE ELSE'S life for your child?

It’s an interesting question really, and after much thought, I’ve decided that for me, it depends on the age of the child/children concerned.

Once upon a time, when my kid were littler (up until their mid-later teenage years) I would have had NO hesitation whatsoever in sacrificing my own life or somebody elses so that they could live. Absolutely no question. My kids’ survival was the only thing that mattered, and bugger the rest of humanity, really!

Now that they are a bit older and have ‘flown the nest’ so to speak, I don’t know that I could. It’s not that I love them any less, it’s just that the fierce, insane maternal-protectiveness chemistry has gone to some extent. I suspect that it will diminish even further when my kids have kids of their own, although that protectiveness-thing might be transferred to the grandkids by then. I really wonder if it is one of those biological imperative things that dictates that one must protect ones genes at all costs, even if that cost is the loss of anothers’ life.

Wanna hear something weird?

When I see a co-worker who has pictures of his/her kids on the desk, I often had a fleeting thought: “This person is no longer interested in the wellbeing of strangers. All this person’s energies and focus now lies with that kid. This person is now selfish-on-behalf of a third party.” if that makes sense.

Now, there’s also the mental maturity and greater connection to the future of mankind parents are supposed to have.

But I have to say, the responses in this thread are a bit scary.

Why are they scary Maastricht?

It’s all well and good from the hindsight of your own adult maturity to say that it’s freaky for parents to put the good of their child before the good of others/mankind, but wouldn’t you have wanted your mum/dad to have done the same thing in your infancy?

No. For the simple reason that in this day and age, there are, apart from traffic, so very few “instant life and death”-threats for children left. Conscious planning, (where to put the detergent in the kitchen, keeping the gates for windows and staircases shut) and intelligent attention, in short, “thinking before you act” are infinitely more valuable to protect a childs wellbeing then the blind instinctual action described in this thread. If anything, such intinctual reactions are more likely to put the kid in danger. Especially the danger of no longer having a parent.

When I was a kid, I told my mom once about a bully in the playground. Just that one time, she changed into a tiger, dragged me to the playground despite my protests and yelled at some kid who was still there (a kid who wasn’t even the bully himself, only a sidekick). She pulled the kid’s arm, hard, so the kid ran away crying. I felt horrible. I was afraid of the consequences. I didn’t feel it would help. My mom in tiger mode scared me more then the bullying had. And, just as I predicted, it didn’t help squat with the bullying afterwards.
My mom didn’t speak to me about the event before or after, she just felt so pleased with herself. I could almost hear her thinking proudly “No-one touches my kid!”

This is the same mom who, three months after the divorce, once lay in waiting on the wooded driveway of her ex-es new lady friend. When the ladyfriend stepped out of her car, my mom attacked and hit her. She told me so some weeks afterwards, with that same proud “No-one messes with me”-attitude.

Here’s another thread where a Doper describes what being confronted by a parent in “tiger-mode” looks and feels like, from the outside.

Damn! We got civilized, we learnt to control our urges, because that was better for everyone. Modern women can’t appreciate it anymore if their man wants to beat everyone up that approaches her. Why should we feel any different about the blind instinct to “protect” our kids?

You mean the only choice that is acceptable to you. Letting both die is just foolish if only one need die. Letting both die so you can feel good about yourself is the most selfish thing I’ve heard in this thread yet.

And a fellow who would commit atrocities for “his own” is no kind of human being.

So, if the situation were reversed, as it were, and some kid’s father strangled your child to death, along with several others to save his own you’d applaud him for being a man and “taking care of his own?”

Okay, you people who are saying you would strangle a school full of elementary kids or kill the entire population of Australia or whatever, in order to save your child: You are fucked up. And I say that as the parent of three children that I would gladly and readily die for without thinking twice about it. But killing someone ELSE? As someone up-thread said, that’s not my life to take.

These sorts of hypothetical questions are difficult for me to answer because it depends so, so much on context.

Terrorists have kidnapped me, my child, and a random, innocent stranger. I’m given a gun with one bullet and told I must shoot either my child or the stranger, or all three of us die? If bargaining and pleading show that killing myself isn’t an option, I shoot the stranger, and am haunted for the rest of my life.

Someone is threatening my child’s life and I have the opportunity to stop that person? No questions asked. Boom. Dead. If I have to gnaw that person’s throat out with my teeth, he’s going down.

The plane is going down and there’s only one parachute and it won’t support more than one person and I must decide between my child and a stranger? Sheer agony. I can’t even imagine what the decision would be, but it would be one all three of us would come to.

My child is dying of kidney failure and there is some person out there who’s the perfect match? That’s very unfortunate. Killing someone isn’t an option, though, and so there is apparently no hope for my child.

Some psychotic, evil alien says I must decide between my child and the entire population of China? Then I’m checking myself into a psychiatric hospital and my child is apparently doomed.

It seems to me that some of these responses are missing what adults are supposed to learn: that other people are as important as I am. All those innocent Australians are people with families they love; I can’t inflict the pain on them that I’m so afraid of for myself.

I’m hoping that these responses are dramatic hyperbole. I have tons of maternal instinct myself and heaven knows I’d sacrifice myself in a heartbeat, but that has to be controlled by civilization and the realization that other people are my equals who deserve the same treatment. We’re human beings, not bears. We’re supposed to use our minds to control our instincts. Parenthood is supposed to be something that makes us more civilized, not less, so that we can pass that on to our kids.

I have to think about what my kids would want me to do. I don’t think my daughter wants a murderer for a mother. Can you imagine the guilt and horror she would have to live with? I would far rather lose my own mom and dad than have them kill someone for my benefit. And I love my parents dearly–they are great people and we moved here to be near them. But they wouldn’t be so great if they did something like that. It would poison my whole life.

Now, this is all a ridiculous hypothetical; I can’t really imagine a scenario where destroying Australia or strangling a 5-yo would actually save my kids’ lives. The killing-and-robbing-a-family to get medical money is the most realistic and it isn’t very. And I don’t really like ridiculous hypothetical threads anyway. So it’s kind of dumb. But still, I sure hope that some of these responses are not actual reflections of posters’ feelings.

Frankly, I don’t care whether you agree wih me or not, but if you want to play it this way open a pit thread and we can discuss it there.

All i can say is that, if there is any justice in the world, someone just like you will one day be forced to choose between your children and his own.

OK. But as far as I am concerned, there is nothing to discuss.

Great googly moogly.

An adult I’d sacrifice quite easily, and possibly without remorse. I’d expect my friends to plug me to save their families, if it came down to it.
Before I had kids I looked out for myself, now I look out for them.

Killing another child would require some serious soul searching and I can’t answer without details. If it was “You kill this child or I’ll kill yours” I’d probably make a hell of an effort to kill the SOB making the demand. I honestly can’t come up with a realistic scenario where I would intentionally kill a child.

But adults are fair game. Too damn many other people around anyway.

I feel like Porky Pine -
Pogo - “Do you ever roll over in bed and stick your ownself?”
Porky - “Yes, and I’m glad! Serves me right … Don’t like nobody”

All posters: please remember that this is not the Pit.

I really don’t understand the moral absolutism going on here.

I can imagine the scene quite clearly in my head:

Your daughter’s brains spilled out on the floor in front of you. You kneeling beside the still warm corpse, sobbing. Explaining, perhaps, to her that you just couldn’t do it. After all, it was an evil act. And wouldn’t she prefer a father/mother to be good? Not evil?

Oh, wait. She can’t prefer anything. She’s dead.

There’s something infinitely more human to me about a person who’d sacrifice another person in that kind of situation than in the people who wouldn’t because of some kind of superior moral compass.

Well, if it’s not your daughter’s brains spilled out on the floor, it’s someone else’s brains spilled out on the floor (or multiply many other brains). If it’s not your daughter who can’t speak for her preferences, it’s other people who can’t speak for theirs. I think I’d be sobbing either way.

Infinitely more human? Sounds like a morallly absolutist view to me.

Since this is not the pit (yes, I know there is a pit thread, I will go there next), the only thing I will say is you are one sick puppy. I sure hope I don’t know you in real life, as you seem to be the type of person that would kneecap my child so yours could make the cheerleading squad. It’s like you are a character on south park or something…

If one of my children (ages 2 and 5) were drowning with 5 other children, I would save my child and let the others die. If it was a choice between my life and my childs, I would gladly lay down my life. But I would not gun down a family or nuke Australia so my child would live, or even run over a homeless person. I would not murder to save my child. Hell, since we have already Godwinized this thread, if someone came to me in 1942 (or whatever) and said 5000000 Jews/gypsies/etc… have died and 5000000 more will die unless I kill my children, I would kill my children. I would also kill myself afterward because I would not be able to live with the guilt and grief.

So, Scumpup (apt handle, btw), would you lay down your life to save the continent of Australia. Or are strangers so beneath you that you would let millions die to save your own life.