I can’t believe this happened and I completely did not mention or reflect on the experience here. Oh, I did reflect and have been reflecting on it for weeks… What is it? Let me share.
You work in a mine shaft that is in the shape of a Y. There is a cart that snaps from the chains and is barreling down into the shaft. Your job is to work the switch, which decides which direction the cart will go.
Right now, the cart will smash and kill 5 people as the switch is currently set to send the cart to the left. You have the choice to flip the switch to only kill 1 person at the other end, or let the 5 other people die. Every person is equally loved, liked, etc.
What do you do?
Most people I’ve asked said they would flip the switch.
Why would you do that?
The standard answer is to save as many lives as possible.
Now, you run a hospital. A man walks in with a paper cut looking for assistance. In a few rooms nearby are 5 people who need a heart, two kidneys, a liver, and a lung transplant within 24 hours to survive. All are loved equally. The man who just walked in is a match for all 5 people.
Base on what you said above, your belief would be to kill the one man in order to save the 5 people.
Now, I’m confused.
And it went on like this for two days, seven hours each day, discussing everything from mine workers, to end of life euthanasia abortion, organ sales, boats sinking, chimpanzees using sign-language and the like. Yes, it was something I’ll never be able to fully explain, but what I took from this experience was that our ethical beliefs are not as cut and dry as we’d like to pretend they are. If so, then even in the above scenario you’d save 5 lives, no matter what. Right?
What was this experience? I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at The College of New Jersey on Bioethics in Film and Fiction with Professor James Taylor. He was absolutely incredible and mind boggling. All seven classmates were on the edge of their seats, being challenged to the core. It was uncomfortable, yet absolutely amazing.
Anytime he presented us with a situation, we found that when we gave him the fuel he needed to move forward, his response was always Excellent. Then, when we went back on our previous beliefs, he would say Now, I’m confused.
His demeanor, tone, and intellect were all eerily familiar. Ever see Hannibal? Yes, I was not the only one that felt we were in his presence. At least I wasn’t the student to mention it in front of him! Plus, I’m thankful while my brain was hacked, it wasn’t hacked if you know what I mean.
I would definitely take a course by Professor Taylor again in the future. He had a way of moving the conversation throughout the day that the hours flew by. Some were in tears the first day, uncomfortable with the life and death choices they were asked to make, relating it to their own personal life experiences.
At times, it was hard to face the reality of what you might do in a situation. I learned some unique things about myself, as well as about the other students I never met before this experience. In the end, two full days of discomfort were summed up in five minutes.
If everything is either alive or dead, and nothing can be harmed in death, then is it so bad for something to be dead? Yeah, you decide.
I wish I could share the two days in full, but I felt a camera recording the experience might be a bit odd. In closing, my mind is still reeling from the experience and it has definitely opened up my eyes to the bio-ethical dilemmas facing everyone, especially the medical industry. I’m so glad I do not run a hospital and have to make these decisions today.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to be continually challenged in education and my career. I am also very thankful that I haven’t had to make any life or death decisions for myself or others to the present moment.
On another note, I’m also thankful I woke up at 4:45am to get to the gym and get my 4 mile run completed before work today. I don’t think I’ve ever woken at 4:45am, not even in college!
What are you thankful for today?
Equipment used: iPod Touch 5G