Joined: 27-May 08
From: Herndon, VA
Member No.: 59,819
This question is really just a classic representation of the ongoing disagreement between followers of teleological ethics (consequentialism, utilitarianism) and adherents of deontological ethics. Given that the proposed situation is certain (i.e. there is no question that killing the child would save many other individuals), consequentialists will argue that the action is not only ethical, but morally necessary. On the other hand, deontologists will submit that the killing of the child cannot be considered ethical because the action of murder in and of itself is inherently morally objectionable. Further, the killing of the child would clearly violate the second maxim of Kant's categorical imperative (because the child is treated as a means for achieving the end desired).
As I have stated elsewhere in this forum, the consequentialist approach to ethical theory truly annoys me. While a number of difficulties definitely exist within the deontological theory of ethics, the glaring problems that plague consequentialism are quite damning for the ideology. Carrying the theory to its full, systematic implementation would create a very confused and undesirable state for society as a whole. Suffice to say (avoiding a lengthy discussion about ethical theory), I would most certainly not kill the child as doing so would be an indefensible case of outright murder.
Some previous commenters have pointed out that the victim in this case ought to be happy to give his or her life for the betterment of all of humanity. I indeed agree that it would be both valiant and humane for the victim to espouse such an attitude, but it is critical to recognize that this choice must be made by the victim, not by an outside party. This is a lesson that one should be able to glean from the first FMA anime series. If something must be sacrificed in order for something else to be obtained, it is only moral for one to give of themselves, not to take from others. This is why Edward, being a moral person, was unable to kill the prisoners in laboratory five, but freely sacrificed himself later in the series for his brother's sake (this is not a perfect corollary to the question posed in this thread, but the same principles apply). Giving of one's self is a courageous and loving action; forcing others to make personal sacrifices against their will not only removes all heroism from the equation, it kills any prospect of promoting self-sacrificing love.
For further research into the ethical questions that surround this issue, I would recommend reading about the Trolley Problem, a prominent ethical thought experiment.
Joined: 12-July 09
From: UK Bristol
Member No.: 70,052
Not sure if anyone watched the BBC series Torchwood lately but without spoiling much a sacrifice was needed to benefit mankind.
And I agree if killing one child could stop all diseases then I'd accept that. Every 3 seconds a child somewhere in the world is dying, (I'd imagine all are innocent too). If one child can stop that, as a statistic its a no brainer.
However if it was my own child that's another matter and I'll be selfish and prevent it.
Also I noticed another question on the front page: Other half or your child to die?
I'd pick other half, as much as I might love my partner I think I'd love my child more, and I have a much greater duty in protecting the child than I do my partner. I'm not a parent yet but I'd imagine that's what I'd feel. Besides I'll probably lose my partner if I chose the kid to die, so that'll be a double wammy.
Joined: 28-February 09
Member No.: 66,878
This is a very hard question for me to answer. But my answer would probably have to be no. Why? Because certain diseases you need to have to stay alive. If I remember correctly. please correct me if I'm wrong.