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Would you die to do the "right thing"?

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Joynewyeary
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Let's suppose there is some circle of people who all know each other and who are all infected with a disease that is fatal unless it is treated. They cannot afford to treat it. They all know about a black market source of stolen medicine and all but one of them use that stolen, inexpensive medicine.

The one who does not use the black market medicine is motivated by a dedication to justice. The one who does not use the black market medicine dies. The others live.

Questions:

1. Is the one who dies heroic or not?

2. If life is the standard of value, then can you consistently claim that the one who dies is doing the right thing?

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Have you ever seen the movie Jon Q? It is a good example of this type of question. Is it moral to hold a hospital of doctors hostage at gunpoint to obtain treatment?

A good question to ask yourself is whether morality really matters if you haven't been practicing it leading up to this incident. The people involved have refused to take responsibility for themselves by earning health insurance, or putting a little money away for themselves, or even simply obtaining a good credit rating so they can get a loan. So what does morality matter to them?

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Let's suppose there is some circle of people who all know each other and who are all infected with a disease that is fatal unless it is treated.  They cannot afford to treat it.  They all know about a black market source of stolen medicine and all but one of them use that stolen, inexpensive medicine.

The one who does not use the black market medicine is motivated by a dedication to justice.  The one who does not use the black market medicine dies.  The others live.

First of all, I have to point out that this would be considered an emergency situation, one which is highly unlikely to happen to you or anyone you know. Emergency situations are not and should not be used as the basis of forming a code of ethics. Ethics is primarily concerned with living your own life and since chances are good you will never encounter such a situation, you should not base your ethics on it.

That said:

Questions:

1.  Is the one who dies heroic or not?

Absolutely. The medicine is stolen. No amount of rationalization can make the situation otherwise. To use the medicine would be to fake reality, to use something which is not properly yours. If there is not a honest alternative, then I would rather die.

2.  If life is the standard of value, then can you consistently claim that the one who dies is doing the right thing?

Life is the standard of value but when your life continues at the expense of other people's lives, that is immoral in itself. You have no claim to their lives and they have no claim to yours. As such, using stolen medicine could only help you at the expense of someone else.

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Questions:

1.  Is the one who dies heroic or not?

2.  If life is the standard of value, then can you consistently claim that the one who dies is doing the right thing?

No and no. In an emergency situation, you are justified in taking that medicine so long as you make it up to your victim afterwards. I also think anyone who would choose to die in this situation is immoral. As a matter of priority, I'd rather live. Morality ceases to count in an emergency. Afterwards, when morality is restored the thief can work towards setting things right.

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Is the government a reason for the legal shortage of medicine? Certainly, stealing the medicine through the black market - as long as it would save the people - would be moral. You are working toward life. After the theft, though, one would have to make every effort to correct the wrong; perhaps by working against the government by bringing the story to light. Just think of the people that would be on your side to help you in the effort.

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2.  If life is the standard of value, then can you consistently claim that the one who dies is doing the right thing?

There is one other alternative. You can appeal to the benevolence of others to voluntarily help you in your crisis. Private charity, as long as it is non-sacrificial and not "financed" by the government at the point of a gun can certainly be a recourse to people who are left with no honest means to preserve their own lives.

I would consider this, if it works out, to be a better alternative than stealing or violating others' rights in any way.

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No and no. In an emergency situation, you are justified in taking that medicine so long as you make it up to your victim afterwards. I also think anyone who would choose to die in this situation is immoral. As a matter of priority, I'd rather live. Morality ceases to count in an emergency. Afterwards, when morality is restored the thief can work towards setting things right.

The original post indicates that this is a disease which is treated on a continuous basis if I read it correctly, so would this really be an emergency situation? (as opposed to taking someone's shirt to stop a bleeding wound) If one continues to live off of stolen goods they certainly are acting immorally.

Morality certainly still counts in an emergency. The nature of an emergency leads to an "act first, think second" response which is not equal to a license to kill. In a real life situation the person will have more options than die or steal as ex_banana-eater stated. I would certainly choose death over living the life of a thief.

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A person who is laid off and has no savings is in an emergency situation. Without money he will not survive. Does the fact that he needs something grant him the right to sacrifice others to himself so he can survive?

The answer is no. A person has no right to claim the life of another person in any situation and this includes emergencies. Need does not constitute a 'right' to someone else's earnings or someone else's life without their consent.

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I would add that it's not simply life that is the standard of value, but life as man qua man.  Biological survival at any cost does not equate to the life that a man should live.

In other words, there is a standard of justice. The standard of value is life lived in accordance with the standard of justice. Typically, we don't need to tell someone to value his or her own life. So the crux of the matter is the standard of justice. No?

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There is one other alternative. You can appeal to the benevolence of others to voluntarily help you in your crisis. Private charity, as long as it is non-sacrificial and not "financed" by the government at the point of a gun can certainly be a recourse to people who are left with no honest means to preserve their own lives.

I would consider this, if it works out, to be a better alternative than stealing or violating others' rights in any way.

Okay, before the one who does not use the black market medicine dies, he or she appealed to the benevolence of others. Nevertheless, the one who does not use the black market medicine does die from the disease.

The one who does not use the black market medicine was motivated by a dedication to justice.

Questions:

1. Is the one who dies heroic or not?

2. If life is the standard of value, then can you consistently claim that the one who dies is doing the right thing?

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Okay, before the one who does not use the black market medicine dies, he or she appealed to the benevolence of others.  Nevertheless, the one who does not use the black market medicine does die from the disease. 

The one who does not use the black market medicine was motivated by a dedication to justice. 

Questions:

1. Is the one who dies heroic or not?

Heroic would not be the best word to describe the situation. It would be sad and unfortunate first, but heroic would apply.

2. If life is the standard of value, then can you consistently claim that the one who dies is doing the right thing?

Yes, there is no contradiction with making that claim. While life is the standard of value that "life" is not just physical existence. Stalin lived for many years but his life was of no positive value. If that person could choose to live without violating another's rights and decides he would rather die then he would be acting irrationally.

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The original post indicates that this is a disease which is treated on a continuous basis if I read it correctly, so would this really be an emergency situation? (as opposed to taking someone's shirt to stop a bleeding wound)  If one continues to live off of stolen goods they certainly are acting immorally.

Morality certainly still counts in an emergency.  The nature of an emergency leads to an "act first, think second" response which is not equal to a license to kill.

I took it to mean that the person who cannot afford the medicine is left with only two choices; obtain the medicine illegally, or die.

No one has suggested killing anyone. Such an action cannot be undone. But stolen values can be returned.

Principles are contextual. When adherence to a principle no longer enhances your life but would in fact lead to your death it should be discarded, because life is your highest value. Acting against principle in this case would not impaire your ability to deal with reality (whereas dying would), nor would it be immoral, so long as you acted to restitute your victim afterwards. On the other hand, choosing to die would be a mindlessly selfless act; it would be placing the commandment: "Thou shalt not steal" outside any context and above life itself.

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  • 3 months later...
First of all, I have to point out that this would be considered an emergency situation, one which is highly unlikely to happen to you or anyone you know. Emergency situations are not and should not be used as the basis of forming a code of ethics.

>>>Exactly! I mean, I understand that it is wrong to sue illegal medicine but come on! It's your life! I know if I was in the situation, I could care less if it was donated by the mafia, I'd just want to keep myself alive. It was never implied in the post that only 4 out of the 5 could survine because of a limited amount of antibiotic. Therefore, he wouldn't be sacrificing someone else for the sake of himself. He basically died with a possibilty to live right there within his grasp. Yes....it is illegal, but I honestly don't care. Puritans used to burn families for denying the existence of God, that was a law for them. Not all laws are right. The only reason the black market is illegal is because of its economic implications. It's like crossing a desert, finding a lake and being told you can't drink from it because it's "private territory" owned by the state. Do you understand why I disapprove of this? I don't think this would be one of those principles worth dying for.

That said:

Absolutely. The medicine is stolen. No amount of rationalization can make the situation otherwise. To use the medicine would be to fake reality, to use something which is not properly yours. If there is not a honest alternative, then I would rather die.

Life is the standard of value but when your life continues at the expense of other people's lives, that is immoral in itself. You have no claim to their lives and they have no claim to yours. As such, using stolen medicine could only help you at the expense of someone else.

How is it at the expense of someone else's life? He didn't die to save someone else. He died to preserve the law. And why is the medication illegal anyway. Why is that specific antibiotic banned from entering the country? I guess I can't grasp this entire situation. It seems absurd to me.

"Oh, I'll risk my death because I would prefer not to take some tylenol that was snuck in from Cuba."

Come on!!

ok, I'm just going to stop because I know you guys will be attacking me on all this as it is.

Is the government a reason for the legal shortage of medicine?  Certainly, stealing the medicine through the black market - as long as it would save the people - would be moral.  You are working toward life.  After the theft, though, one would have to make every effort to correct the wrong; perhaps by working against the government by bringing the story to light.  Just think of the people that would be on your side to help you in the effort.

Ok, I can agree with this. At least someone understands some of my reasoning. I know one cannot really vindicate or rationalize an immoral act, but how is self-preservation immoral?

Edited by AmbivalentEye
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How is it at the expense of someone else's life? He didn't die to save someone else.

ok, I'm just going to stop because I know you guys will be attacking me on all this as it is.

...I know one cannot really vindicate or rationalize an immoral act, but how is self-preservation immoral?

:stuart: *hunterrose proceeds to attack* :dough:

I think you are right as to your answer, but not your reasons. It is at the expense of someone's else's life because you're taking the lifeblood (the productive work) of another person. Self-preservation is not immoral, but of course we must be careful by what we define as "self-preservation."

You would have to restitute the victim of your theft, and choosing to die would be immoral IMO, as iouswuoibev (nice name :ninja: ) said. Virtues are only virtues in the context that they are means of maximizing one's life.

The people involved have refused to take responsibility for themselves by earning health insurance, or putting a little money away for themselves, or even simply obtaining a good credit rating so they can get a loan. So what does morality matter to them?

But doesn't this eliminate the concept of emergency? There is a thin line between emergency and carelessness catching up with you, but I'm not sure this situation falls into the carelessness category, let alone that one should be obligated to die because they have bad credit :confused:

As studentofobjectivism said (though with different rationale) A person has no right to claim the life of another person in any situation and this includes emergencies. My position is that, even though this would be a violation of another's rights, it isn't immoral. That's not to say that emergencies justify any violation of another's rights, though.

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