e ., one ethical theory supporting H u m a n i t i e s
Please choose one of the four hypothetical moral dilemmas described below for your essay. Argue both sides of the issue, using two ethical theories to make your points (i.e., one ethical theory supporting each side). Helpful tip: the two easiest theories to use for this assignment are Immanuel Kant’s Deontology and J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism.
1. The Runaway Trolley
A runaway trolley is heading down the tracks toward five workmen who will be killed if the trolley proceeds on its present course. Molly is on a footbridge over the tracks, in between the approaching trolley and the five workmen. Next to her on this footbridge is a stranger who happens to be very large.
If she does nothing the trolley will proceed, causing the deaths of the five workmen. The only way to save the lives of these workmen is to push this stranger off the bridge and onto the tracks below, where his large body will stop the trolley, causing his death.
Should Molly push the stranger onto the tracks in order to save the five workmen?
Would/should it make a difference if the very large person is not a stranger but is Molly’s beloved cousin? Why or why not?
2. The Deliberate Infection
Ken is a doctor. One of his patients, whom he has diagnosed as HIV positive, is about to receive a blood transfusion prior to being released from the hospital. He has told Ken, in the confidence of their doctor-patient relationship, that after he gets his transfusion, and his medicine from Ken, he intends to infect as many people as possible with HIV starting that evening.
Because Ken is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, there is no legal way to stop this man from carrying out his plan (at least for the sake of this essay J)
It occurs to Ken that he could contaminate his medication by putting an untraceable poison in it that will kill him before he gets a chance to infect others.
Should Ken poison this man in order to prevent him from spreading HIV?
3. The Overloaded Lifeboat
Doug is on a cruise ship that sinks. He makes it onto one of the lifeboats. However, the lifeboats are carrying many more people than they were designed to carry. The lifeboat he’s in is already dangerously low in the water – a few inches lower and it will sink.
A group of old people are drowning in the water and ask Doug to throw them a rope so they can come aboard the lifeboat. It seems certain to Doug that the boat will sink if it takes on any more passengers.
Should Doug refuse to throw the rope in order to save himself and the other lifeboat passengers? Would it make a difference if the people in the water were not old, but young children (with their whole lives ahead of them)? Why or why not?
4. The Sick Patients
You are a skilled doctor, with five patients who all need different organ transplants. There are currently no organs available to give them, and if they don’t get their transplants soon they will all die. You have a sixth patient, who is dying of an incurable disease. At the moment you are giving him medicine to ease his pain and prolong his life. He is a compatible organ donor for your five other patients, but the medicine he is taking will keep him alive just a day longer than they have left. If you were to stop giving him medicine he would die before them, in a very painful way, but you would then be able to use his organs to save the other five.
What should you do?
What if the sixth patient’s disease was curable, and the medicine you are giving him will allow him to make a complete recovery? Should you still sacrifice him to save the other five patients?