Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dilemma ( Part I )

I have been thinking about something. It's kind of weird to think about something like this, but let me put it out there anyway.
I will present a dilemma and all the information I'm giving you is what you're going to get. The options are two in number, which is also why it is called a dilemma. You do not get any other choices.

The Problem
You are a doctor and have patient, who is a carrier of a certain type of disease. This disease will not kill your patient, but can kill and will with very high likelihood kill all people of a certain group, which we would call group A. Everyone who is not in group A, is immune to this disease ( they may become carriers themselves though ). The group who is immune is called group B. 
You have been the patient's doctor for years and have been trying to find a cure for it. Nothing has worked and now the hospital is telling you that you have to release him back to the place he comes from. 
Your patient's hometown has 30 thousand inhabitants. 10 thousand of them are of group A and will thus most likely die if he returns to his town. Your patient wants to live and as such will not commit suicide, basically condemning group A to die if he were to return.

The Options
As you can see, releasing the guy back home would kill ten thousand people. The choice that falls before you is to either : 
- Release him and 10 thousand people would die in the following year, leaving only twenty thousand people alive in his hometown.
- Kill him by injecting untraceable poison into his blood. This would save those ten thousand people. No one would know it was you.

What would you do ?

This is another thing I guess most of you have not thought of, but the idea is simple. Are you willing to murder someone by your own hands to save others ? Or is murdering someone else too wrong to even consider and that the life of this person is sacred ? That by murdering the person, you become no better than them ?
I am putting up a poll up. It's on the right-hand side of the page. It would be nice to know what people think. If you want to, you can even elaborate on your position in the comments below the post.

Part II can now be found here.


  1. This one's very straightforward. Kill him. I'd rather have one death on my conscience than a million, or ten thousand. I can't wash my hands of it by pretending that it was his choice to return to his town.

    This is a variant of the trolley problem, although less complex. There are some variants there, too. The organ-transplant one is a tough one IMO.

    That said, like most constructed ethical dilemmas of this type, this is pretty contrived. In real life, things very, very rarely boil down to binary choices like this one. There are always other options. And as such, I don't think such constructed ethical dilemmas are very useful tests of systems of ethics.

  2. If he knows that by returning he will kill others then he's effectively about to commit murder. So, the number counts. He dies. I'd probably confess too.

    Does Part II involve Colonel Gaddafi and some missiles which no-one would know you targetted at him if you claim the target was a 'command centre'? :)