RESULTS OF PAW’S ONLINE
SURVEY ON ETHICAL DILEMMAS
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?
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%
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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