Discussion 1 Ethical Dilemmas – The Trolley Problem, In Theory and In The Real World

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View the following videos.

After watching the videos, post a thoughtful critique addressing the following questions:

  1. How would you respond to each of the variants of the Trolley Problem described below? Be thorough and justify your reasoning. Note: You cannot add any elements to change the situation – i.e., you cannot rush in and untie the people from the tract, etc. You must make the choice between only the options given. For each scenario, think about whether or not the answers to the following two questions differ: What is the right thing to do and What would you do? In each of these cases 1-4 the result will be the death of 1 person and saving the lives of 5 people.
    1. Original problem – you are the trolley driver; decision is to pull switch or not.
    2. Fat man variant – you are an observer on a bridge; decision is to push fat man or not.
    3. Fat man/villain variant – you are an observer on a bridge; decision is to push fat man or not; fat man is the villain who put the five people in danger on the tracks.
    4. Loved one variant – you are the trolley driver; decision is to pull the switch or not; the 1 person that would die if you pull the switch is a dear loved one of yours (parent, child, spouse, etc.)
    5. Man sleeping in his yard variant – you can divert trolley’s path by colliding another trolley into it, but if you do, both will be derailed and go down a hill, and into a yard where a man is sleeping in a hammock. He would be killed.
  2. What if instead of killing 1 person to save 5, your action would result in killing 4 people to save 5? Would you change your behavior in any of the situations? Why or why not?
  3. Transplant variant – This version addresses some of the same core issues as the Trolley Problem but with the following scenario: A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveler, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine checkup. In the course of doing the checkup, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Suppose that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor. Should the doctor to kill that tourist and provide his healthy organs to those five dying persons to ave their lives? How is this the scenario the same and how does it differ from the Trolley Problem?
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