31 Jan 2011

An ethical dilemma

The Reshmi Ramnarine episodes has brought to my mind a question of ethics which led me to a lecture presented on the BBC recently. The lecture was based on the idea of ‘when is it acceptable to murder’.

Presented is a paraphrased problem initially posed by Professor Michael Sandel:

Imagine you are in a vehicle, travelling at high speed. Your brakes aren’t working. There is no safe point to drive off the road. No safety barriers.

Ahead of you is a party of 5 men in the road, carrying out road works. In a little side turn there is one man working. Your steering works. You have a spit second to make a decision. Should you carry on, you plough into the 5 men killing all of them. Turn and you kill the 1. Either way, the end result is death for all whom the vehicle smashes into.

* Don’t bother to ask questions. Accept that only the conditions stated apply.

Would you kill the 5 or the 1? Give reasons for your answer.