Last night I was doing my reading for today’s class, and for whatever reason, there is an ethics hypo thunked down in between a couple of tort cases. I’ve been pondering it since last night, and I respectfully submit it to the SDMB.
You are a trolley driver. As you crest a hill you see before you five people on the tracks. You pull the brake lever, but, since this is an ethics problem, the brake doesn’t work. Moments before impact, you notice a spur track. You can throw a lever on your trolley and take the spur. The problem however, is that there is one person on the spur track. Doing nothing will kill five people. Throwing the lever will kill one person. What do you do?
After you retire from trolley driving, you become a transplant surgeon. In fact, you become the best transplant surgeon in the world, and since this is an ethics problem, you can assume that your surgeries are always 100% successful. At your hospital are five critically ill patients, each needing a different organ (no, they’re not matches for each other). A healthy man walks into the hospital for a routine checkup. You come to discover that miraculously, he is a perfect match for all five of your patients. Taking his organs will kill him, but will save five people. What do you do?
Most people choose to take positive action in the first scenario and to take no positive action in the second. Here’s my question: Why is this?
Note: this isn’t a new problem, and in fact, it’s a famous one: The Trolley Problem, thought up by philosopher Philippa Foot. Don’t read the wiki until you’ve thought of your own answer. You’ll spoil the fun.
Wrong forum? GD?