Thought Experiment Meat-con
Ending the lives of people in vegetative states who have no hope of recovery is an ethical choice. According to The Royal College of Physicians, a persistent vegetative state is a wakeful unconscious state the lasts longer than a few weeks. Now, obviously, if someone is in a vegetative state that only lasts a few weeks there is no reason to end their life. It is only appropriate to end a person’s life if they have no chance of recovery. The Royal College of Physicians defines a vegetative state as being “non-recoverable” after twelve months have passed with no signs of progression shown. When someone is in a vegetative state, they are unaware of the world around them and cannot interact with it in any way. If someone cannot interact with anything at all and is completely unaware of reality, they might as well already be dead. There is no point of keeping someone alive that will never actually be fully alive. In addition to the person not being fully alive, there is the aspect of cost to keep in mind. Since a person in a vegetative state cannot do anything for themselves, the person must be cared for 24/7. This can be very costly as some insurance plans do not cover 24/7 care for an extended period. If the person truly has no hope of recovery, it is pointless to keep them alive at great cost when they never get out of their current state. Would you pay a large amount of money to keep someone alive that will never be conscious or interact with the world in any way? The last reason that ending the lives of people in vegetative states is ethical that is has been done before and considered ethical by the court. An example of this would be the Terri Schiavo case. Terri Schiavo was a woman that entered a vegetative state after suffering from an eating disorder. After 13 years in treatment and showing no sign of recovery her husband wanted to have her feeding tube removed so she could die, but her parents did not want this, so a large legal battle ensued. In the end, the judge ruled that it was ethical to remove the feeding tube as she had no hope of recovery. The preceding shows that ending the life of a person in a vegetative state was officially declared as ethical so no question in the ethics of doing said activity should be raised. If someone who is in a vegetative state is kept alive more harm than good will come of it. Even if it is not apparent the person who is in a vegetative state is suffering as they are trapped inside their body. Would you want to be trapped in your own body with no way out for the rest of your life?
The Trolley Car problem demonstrates the difficulty of using a utilitarian ideal as the basis for ethical action, but in many real-world situations, innocent people must sometimes be sacrificed for the sake of saving other lives. One example of this is the Zeebrugge disaster when a ferry sank. The seawater was very cold, and there were many people that wanted to climb out to safety. When a man frozen with fear stopped on the ladder out of the sea, he blocked many people from escaping the water. The people waiting to climb up the ladder pulled him down into the water. The man drowned. This is a great example of how sacrificing a life to save many others can be a good thing. If the people did not pull the man, many people would have drowned instead of just the man. It would make no sense not to pull the man off the ladder as he was preventing others from escaping. A second example is the trolley car thought experiment posed in the thought experiment packet. The problem is that there is a train heading towards five workers on a track, but you can flip a switch, and the trolley will head down another track killing only one worker instead of five. The ethical thing to do is to flip the switch to save five people and kill one as five lives are more valuable than one. However, it is also very hard to flip the switch as you are changing the natural course of the train and causing one person to die rather than being a bystander to five deaths. A variation of the trolley car thought experiment is that there are five workers on the tracks and you are standing on a bridge. There is a fat man standing next to you, and if you pushed him off the bridge, the train would stop saving the five people, but killing the fat man. This is an example of when it is not acceptable to sacrifice one person to save many. The man did not volunteer to work on the train tracks, so he did not assume the risks of doing so like the people on the track did. The man has done nothing wrong and is not involved in the incident, so there is no reason to push him. When taking all of this into consideration, it is clear that there are certain situations where it is acceptable to sacrifice one person to save others and situations where it is not acceptable.
People have a greater moral obligation for those who they know and live near, rather than for those who are strangers. An example of why this is true is that people feel for other people that they know well. When you get to know someone you tend to have sympathy for them more than you would for someone you don’t know. This could cause someone to help someone that they know over someone that they don’t know. Another example of this is that people are more likely to help someone that lives close to them, rather than someone who lives in another country or place. This could be because when you live near someone you have something in common with them, so you feel more inclined to help. The last reason this is true is that it is easier to help someone who is near you. You are much more likely to help someone if it is convenient for you. It would be less convenient if the person that needs your help is in a completely different place. To take away from this, people have a greater moral responsibility for people that live near them for the preceding reasons.