Web Exclusives: PawPlus

March 28, 2005:


1. You are the late-night watchman in a hospital. Due to an accident in the building next door, deadly fumes are rising up through the hospital’s ventilation system. In a certain room of the hospital are three patients. In another room there is a single patient. If you do nothing the fumes will rise up into the room containing the three patients and cause their deaths. The only way to avoid the deaths of these patients is to hit a certain switch, which will cause the fumes to bypass the room containing the three patients. As a result of doing this the fumes will enter the room containing the single patient, causing his death. Is it appropriate for you to hit the switch in order to avoid the deaths of the three patients?
Yes: 56%
No: 32%
Undecided: 12%

2. You are a member of a government legislature. The legislature is deciding between two different policies concerning environmental hazards. Policy A has a 90 percent chance of causing no deaths at all and has a 10 percent chance of causing 1,000 deaths. Policy B has a 92 percent chance of causing no deaths and an 8 percent chance of causing 10,000 deaths. Which policy would you vote for?
Policy A: 88%
Policy B: 12%
Undecided: 0%

3. You are a doctor. You have five patients, each of whom is about to die due to a failing organ of some kind. You have another patient who is healthy. The only way that you can save the lives of the first five patients is to transplant five of this young man’s organs (against his will) into the bodies of the other five patients. If you do this, the young man will die, but the other five patients will live. Is it appropriate for you to perform these transplants in order to save five of your patients?
Yes: 0%
No: 100%
Undecided: 0%

4. A runaway trolley is heading down the tracks toward five workmen who will be killed if the trolley proceeds on its present course. You are on a footbridge over the tracks, between the approaching trolley and the five workmen. Next to you on this footbridge is a stranger who happens to be very large. The only way to save the lives of the five workmen is to push this stranger off the bridge and onto the tracks below, where his large body will stop the trolley. The stranger will die if you do this, but the five workmen will be saved. Is it appropriate for you to push the stranger on to the tracks in order to save the five workmen?
Yes: 6%
No: 94%
Undecided: 0%

5. You are the head of a poor household in a developing country. Your crops have failed for the second year in a row, and it appears that you have no way to feed your family. Your sons, ages 8 and 10, are too young to go off to the city where there jobs, but your daughter could fare better. You know a man from your village who lives in the city and who makes sexually explicit films featuring small children such as your daughter. He tells you that in one year of working in his studio your daughter could earn enough money to keep your family fed for several growing seasons. Is it appropriate for you to employ your daughter in the child-pornography industry in order to feed your family?
Yes: 6%
No: 91%
Undecided: 3%

6. Your plane has crashed in the Himalayas. The only survivors are yourself, another man, and a young boy. The three of you travel for days, battling extreme cold and wind. Your only chance at survival is to find your way to a small village on the other side of the mountain, several days away. The boy has a broken leg and cannot move very quickly. His chances of surviving the journey are essentially zero. Without food, you and the other man will probably die as well. The other man suggests that you sacrifice the boy and eat his remains over the next few days. Is it appropriate to kill this boy so that you and the other man may survive your journey to safety?
Yes: 9%
No: 88%
Undecided: 3%

7. You are on a cruise ship when there is a fire on board, and the ship has to be abandoned. The lifeboats are carrying many more people than they were designed to carry. The lifeboat you’re in is sitting dangerously low in the water—a few inches lower and it will sink. The seas start to get rough, and the boat begins to fill with water. If nothing is done it will sink before the rescue boats arrive and everyone on board will die. However, there is an injured person who will not survive in any case. If you throw that person overboard the boat will stay afloat and the remaining passengers will be saved. Is it appropriate for you to throw this person overboard in order to save the lives of the remaining passengers?
Yes: 50%
No: 47%
Undecided: 3%

8. You are a waiter. You overhear one of your customers say that he is about to go to jail and that in his last 48 hours of freedom he plans to infect as many people as possible with HIV. You know him well enough to know that he is telling the truth and that he has access to many potential victims. You happen to know that he has a very strong allergy to poppy seeds. If he eats even one, he will go into convulsions and have to be hospitalized for at least 48 hours. Is it appropriate for you to cause this man to have a serious allergy attack in order to prevent him from spreading HIV?
Yes: 63%
No: 34%
Undecided: 3%

9. You are part of a group of ecologists who live in a remote stretch of jungle. The entire group, which includes eight children, has been taken hostage by a group of paramilitary terrorists. One of the terrorists takes a liking to you. He informs you that his leader intends to kill you and the rest of the hostages the following morning. He is willing to help you and the children escape, but as an act of good faith he wants you to kill one of your fellow hostages whom he does not like. If you refuse his offer, all the hostages including the children and you will die. If you accept his offer, then the others will die in the morning, but you and the eight children will escape. Is it appropriate for you to kill one of your fellow hostages in order to escape from the terrorists and save the lives of the eight children?
Yes: 17%
No: 77%
Undecided: 6%

10. You are negotiating with a powerful and determined terrorist who is about to set off a bomb in a crowded area. Your one advantage is that you have his teenage son in your custody. There is only one thing that you can do to stop him from detonating his bomb, which will kill thousands of people if detonated. To stop him, you must contact him over the satellite hookup that he has established and, in front of the camera, break one of his son’s arms and then threaten to break the other one if he does not give himself up. Is it appropriate for you to break the terrorist’s son’s arm in order to prevent the terrorist from killing thousands of people with his bomb?
Yes: 70%
No: 18%
Undecided: 12%

11. You are the leader of a small army that consists of warriors from two tribes, the hill tribe and the river tribe. You belong to neither tribe. During the night, a hill tribesman got into an argument with a river tribesman and murdered him. The river tribe will attack the hill tribe unless the murderer is put to death, but the hill tribe refuses to kill one of its own warriors. The only way for you to avoid a war between the two tribes that will costs hundreds of lives is to publicly execute the murderer by cutting off his head with your sword. Is it appropriate for you to cut off this man’s head in order to prevent the two tribes from fighting a war that will cost hundreds of lives?
Yes: 59%
No: 38%
Undecided: 3%

12. It is wartime and you and your two children, ages 8 and 5, are living in a territory that has been occupied by the enemy. At the enemy’s headquarters is a doctor who performs painful experiments on humans that inevitably lead to death. He intends to perform experiments on one of your children, but he will allow you to choose which of your children will be experimented upon. You have 24 hours to bring one of your children to his laboratory. If you refuse to bring one of your children to his laboratory, he will find them both and experiment on both of them. Is it appropriate for you to bring one of your children to the laboratory in order to avoid having them both die?
Yes: 15%
No: 68%
Undecided: 17%

13. A viral epidemic has spread across the globe, killing millions of people. You have developed two substances in your home laboratory. You know that one of them is a vaccine, but you don’t know which one. You also know that the other one is deadly. Once you figure out which substance is the vaccine you can use it to save millions of lives. You have with you two people who are under your care, and the only way to identify the vaccine is to inject each of these people with one of the two substances. One person will live, the other will die, and you will be able to start saving lives with your vaccine. Is it appropriate for you to kill one of these people with a deadly injection in order to identify a vaccine that will save millions of lives?
Yes: 53%
No: 44%
Undecided: 3%

14. You are the leader of a small group of soldiers. You are on your way back from a completed mission deep in enemy territory when one of your men has stepped in a trap that has been set by the enemy and is badly injured. The trap is connected to a radio device that by now has alerted the enemy to your presence. They will soon be on their way. If the enemy finds your injured man, they will torture him and kill him. He begs you not to leave him behind, but if you try to take him with you your entire group will be captured. The only way to prevent this injured soldier from being tortured is to shoot him yourself. Is it appropriate for you to shoot this soldier in order to prevent him from being tortured by the enemy?
Yes: 50%
No: 41%
Undecided: 9%

NOTE: Total responses – 36. Responses subject to rounding to nearest whole number. This survey is not a scientific poll; it reflects the views of PAW readers who chose to respond to an online questionnaire.