Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Was Spock right?

It is the middle of the night and you are on your way home and there is no traffic on the road. You get stopped at a redlight. You sit. You wait. The light is NOT changing, there are no other cars on the road. Do you run the red light?

The reason I ask is because Tuesday is my work at home and get caught up on grading, prepping for class, reading papers, laundry, dishes, vacuuming, regaining sanity from the weekend day. And as part of the day I catch up on DVR, and on today's menu is 3 weeks worth of House. If you haven't watched and are going to...SPOILER ALERT!!! Click away from the blog.

A dictator in the midst of horrific genocide is dying. If you are his doctor, do you work your ass off to save him, knowing he will go back to his country and complete his mission? Or do you perform substandardly and let him die? Or do you mislead others and more or less kill him yourself?

There is a theory of moral development that suggests that a person with a lessor developed morality would sit at the red light and work their asses off to save the dictator. Without a more developed moral compass, people act to avoid punishment. Interestingly, this same theory states that the MOST morally developed would run the red light and kill the dictator.

How developed are you?

I wouldn't run the light.

Maybe even more telling, while I might WANT to do it, I wouldn't kill the dictator because I wouldn't want to go to jail.

What would you do in those situations?

Was Spock right, do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?


--V said...

I've been turning that round in my head for a week now since seeing the episode.

I don't think I'd run the light either. And I'd challenge that theory about my moral compass. I wouldn't do it not because I might get caught, but because I'd never be able to get out from under the guilt, no matter how justified I thought my action was.

I think we're going to be watching Chase fall apart for a while as he comes to terms with what he, an almost-priest and a man who took an oath to heal and not hurt, did to one of his patients--greater good or no, he killed the man. Or, more accurately, he let his wife do it. He faked the test, she's the one who administered the wrong drug in response to the results of that test.

Lately every time I get to the end of an episode of House, I keep saying the same thing: God, I love this show!

Fatinah said...

that was a hard episode to watch as a) I love James Earl Jones, b) J.E.J. is a great actor and c) he was so believable as a nasty nasty!!

I'm a rule follower to the core. I would sit at that light till my ass hurt. As for killing - I think if you believe that is a bad thing - there can never be a justification. So I'd save the bastard.

As for if Spock is right or not - OF COURSE! I still cry when I see that scene!! The needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few - or the one - I'm just not that strong!

Lynne said...

I don't watch House, so this is a very interesting question. As someone who feels guilt over the smallest things, I know I wouldn't run the red light. As far as the dictator goes, that one's more difficult, but as a doctor, you have a certain responsibility, so he would most likely be saved.

DAVs said...

I think I might run the red light, but the dictator thing...hard to say. Because I'm in healthcare for real, and it's so so scary to ever think of deliberately withholding care or providing substandard care...ok my heart rate is going up just thinking about it.
Must go watch mindless morally bereft TV.

Shelley said...

I would not run the red, but I'd like to think I could kill the dictator. Somehow I don't think I'll ever be in that situation - the dictator, not the red light, lol.

Jill said...

I guess much would depend upon whether you believed that if you killed the dictator, you would be removing his opportunity to redeem himself - or be redeemed - or not. Or if it was more important to prevent evil. Or there is the whole "First, do no harm..." not breaking your vow aspect. Do you do no harm to the individual, or the 'greater good'. What if one of the people you save (by killing evil dictator) is worse than this guy?
I would, however, look both ways. Twice. And run the light. Or maybe, I'd make a right turn, a uwey, and another right turn.
I am simply not qualified to make decisions like these. Though I qualify as a hawk (is compromise really a good thing, or is it just something people say when they want other people to look bad if they don't do what they want?), I don't think I could personally kill the dictator except in a self-defense or war situation.

What a Splurge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
What a Splurge said...

Having doctors decide who lives and dies would be chaos. Oh wait, that's what insurance companies are for.

LiLu said...

Oh, lord, I have no idea. Those questions in Ethics classes always made my head hurt... ;-)

Astarte said...

I would totally run the red light, and have done on several occasions.

That said, I wouldn't kill the dictator. There would be no guarantee that the next person would be any better, and more importantly, I think that once you get inside a hospital, or a school, politics has to stop and peole need to do their jobs. If I killed the dictator, who would be next? I think if I did the one person in, it would be a slippery slope.

tara said...

I would certainly run the light. I am not going to sit there all night. That's just silly. If I have stopped, the light is obviously not working properly, and I know I can move forward safely, I would run it.

Same thing with the dictator. Though evil is entirely subjective, if it were someone who I really believed in my deepest heart was doing more harm to people than his death would do to those who loved him, I would do it. As long as I knew the facts ( and by facts I mean facts, and not media driven propaganda) and I believed that the world would be better off.

But I am not a doctor. It is not my job to save people. So I have that leeway.

Penny said...

Right now I feel like I would run the red light, drive around in a circle and run it again, and then I'd kill the dictator (?) and then poop on him.

creative kerfuffle said...

i love penny's comment. i'd run the read light. i loved that episode of house and do agree that we're going to see chase fall apart. i don't think i could kill the dictator. part of me wants to think if i was 100% positive i wouldn't get caught i'd do it, but, i really don't think i could kill someone.

Swistle said...

I would eventually run the light, because I would rationalize that the light must be broken. The dictator, I don't know. I might cause his death (i.e., by withholding treatment, as opposed to by administering poison) if I knew I wouldn't get caught.

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