Roger's lssue

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Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 09:55 pm
Please consider the following thought experiment:

Assume that Roger, a brilliant biomedical researcher, has designed an experiment that will yield data crucial in finding a cure for cancer. The experiment, however, will work only if he uses a human being as a test subject. There is no feasible alternative. No animal subject will do; no computer simulation model will work. The human used in the experiment will suffer excruciating pain and eventually die. No volunteers offer to participate. An unwilling human--a severely and incurably retarded homeless adult with no family or friends--is chosen.

The Question: is it morally acceptable to use a severely and incurably retarded homeless human with no family or friends as an unconsenting test subject in a painful and fatal experiment that will produce a cure for cancer?

Bear in mind that our test subject is sentient: he can move, speak, eat, experience, feel pain, exhibit emotions, and so forth.

Before you answer, consider the fact that every year millions of humans around the world die of cancer. Think about their pain and suffering. Think about the pain and suffering of their loved ones. Think about the pain and suffering you would endure if you had cancer (and you most likely will). Surely the benefits of a cure for cancer would be inestimable. Would such benefits not outweigh the detriment caused to the severely retarded human in question? I'll withhold my answer for now, but I'd like to hear yours (and why you chose it).
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 23 Jan, 2010 10:02 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Yes. Can't really overlook the benefits.
 
Amperage
 
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 01:14 am
@Jebediah,
I would find it morally UNacceptable and here's 2 reasons:

#1 We have no right to take another human's life. I find myself changing my stance on this issue after the discussion we had about the Trolley Problem(I'm looking at you Pyrrho). While it may be true that killing one could save thousands, every man has the right to life and I hold that truth to be self evident. If a man wants to continue to live his life he is within his rights to do so unless doing so requires stopping someone else from pursuing that same right.
Just where do you draw the line? Do we kill one guy and harvest his organs to save the many who need them? It is in Gods devine right to kill but not ours.

#2 even if it did cure cancer what would that accomplish? We all still die. There is something to be said for those who bear the pains they are burdened with with dignity. It is an extremely sad inevitability of human existence to die. And we all suffer with varying degrees. Many have died in the worst possible ways and have done so with pride and honor.
 
1CellOfMany
 
Reply Sun 24 Jan, 2010 07:40 am
@Amperage,
I agree with Amperage on this, but would suggest a variation of this thought experiment: Instead of an innocent homeless person, what if we had access to a convicted serial killer/rapist as our un-willing research subject? What about a suicidally depressed masochist?
These are just some "tempting" alternatives. If we use the analogy of humankind being one organism, with each of us being like single cells in this organism (thus my moniker), then any of the above subjects could be considered like cancerous cells which need to die. The extreme suffering part is problematic, though: I feel that the real, spiritual damage would be to the researcher who caused the suffering, more than to the subject himself. The researcher's capacity for compassion would undoubtedly be damaged.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 10:33 am
@Amperage,
Amperage;122115 wrote:
I would find it morally UNacceptable and here's 2 reasons:

#1 We have no right to take another human's life. I find myself changing my stance on this issue after the discussion we had about the Trolley Problem(I'm looking at you Pyrrho). ...



You mean that people sometimes actually change their minds because of things I post? How extraordinary!

I very much agree that this is essentially the Trolley Problem in a different form. For anyone interested, here are a couple of relevant links:

Trolley problem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joshua Greene's Homepage

To answer the question of the original post, I say no. But if you say yes, I think you should be the one chosen for the experiment. After all, according to you, it is the right thing to do, so you have no reason to complain.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 10:48 am
@Pyrrho,
Quote:
To answer the question of the original post, I say no. But if you say yes, I think you should be the one chosen for the experiment. After all, according to you, it is the right thing to do, so you have no reason to complain.


And if you say no, you or one of your relatives should be given cancer :bigsmile:

But really. I'll take my guaranteed self preservation as a first priority, but I would enter a national lottery to determine the 1 person who would be sacrificed. Wouldn't you?
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 10:54 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;122409 wrote:
And if you say no, you or one of your relatives should be given cancer :bigsmile:

But really. I'll take my guaranteed self preservation as a first priority, but I would enter a national lottery to determine the 1 person who would be sacrificed. Wouldn't you?


No.

(It is unfortunate that the software for this site requires 16 characters for a post, which means that more must be typed than just the answer to your question.)
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 10:57 am
@Oikeiosis,
Why not? The odds of you being selected are far less than the odds of you getting cancer. Granted most people get cancer later in life, but it still works out for the best odds.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 05:09 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;122415 wrote:
Why not? The odds of you being selected are far less than the odds of you getting cancer. Granted most people get cancer later in life, but it still works out for the best odds.


Whenever making a bet, there are two things to consider: the odds, and what one has to gain or lose. In this case, although one would likely not lose, if one did lose, it would be very, very bad. I never bet anything that I cannot afford to lose, unless it is impossible for me to lose. This is not a case that is impossible to lose.

If I got cancer, it might be treatable with current technology, and even if it wasn't, if the pain became unbearable, I could commit suicide. That option would not be available were I to lose the bet. So, from a purely self-interested standpoint, I would not take the bet.

However, I think there is more to it than that. I agree with 1CellOfMany in that being willing to torture someone to death is bad in itself, and so I would not want to have any part in such a thing. I think it would be terrible to live in a society in which such things were regarded as not only acceptable, but the right thing to do.

You appear to view the matter from the standpoint of the consequences. I happen to think that it would be a bad consequence to live in a society willing to torture people, but let us set that aside for the moment. Do you think that these things should be judged by their consequences? If so, why?

I happen to think that ethics is not about consequences. I will give you an example to illustrate why. Suppose we think of a murderer. In such a case, there is (presumably) a bad consequence in that someone is dead. Let us compare this with an attempted murderer. In such a case, let us say, no harm is done, so should we think it is okay to be an attempted murderer because there were no bad consequences? I think that attempted murder, and murder, are ethically equivalent. And if I am right about that, then ethics is not about the consequences. And if that is the case, we should not judge the answer to the original question by the consequences.

The consequences are relevant to what is practical, but I don't think they matter from an ethical standpoint. But, even if I am wrong about that, I still regard it as a bad consequence of your proposal that one would be living in a society willing to torture innocent people to death. I would rather live in a society which lacked a cure for cancer.
 
Amperage
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 05:27 pm
@Pyrrho,
I think one great thing is that I believe we live a world that is so great and there are those who love people so much(or whatever reason they want to come up with) that there would be those who freely volunteered. This would completely eliviate any problem

For me this is a tough problem to consider:

Consider if I found myself in a cage with 1 other person and I was told if I didn't kill him that 10 people would die and that if he didn't kill me 10 different people would die. In that scenario, the final decision comes down to this: Am I willing to sacrifice myself in order to not actively kill someone? And would I be wrong/what does it say about me if I wasn't?
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 07:21 pm
@1CellOfMany,
Amperage;122557 wrote:
I think one great thing is that I believe we live a world that is so great and there are those who love people so much(or whatever reason they want to come up with) that there would be those who freely volunteered. This would completely eliviate any problem



I disagree. I think that 1CellOfMany is essentially right (though I would not use the word "spiritual", except, perhaps, poetically) in saying:

1CellOfMany;122131 wrote:
... The extreme suffering part is problematic, though: I feel that the real, spiritual damage would be to the researcher who caused the suffering, more than to the subject himself. The researcher's capacity for compassion would undoubtedly be damaged.


I think there is something terribly wrong with being willing to use someone in such a way. Someone agreeing to be tortured to death would not make me inclined to think that that made it okay, or that the researcher was a good person. Think about it for a moment: Suppose you are the researcher, and you are causing a person extreme suffering and agony, that will not benefit that person at all. It will lead to a cure for cancer, so you are doing it because you want that good consequence. But still you are torturing someone, basically ignoring their cries of agony, because otherwise, you do not get the cure. Now, maybe you are the sort of person to whom that would not have any lasting effects. If so, then I am glad we are having this conversation via computer rather than in person, but I suspect that you are like most people in that it would have a psychological effect upon you that would not be desirable. You may, perhaps, regard this as a small price to pay, but the bottom line is you are still helping to create a society in which torture is regarded as acceptable.


Amperage;122557 wrote:

For me this is a tough problem to consider:

Consider if I found myself in a cage with 1 other person and I was told if I didn't kill him that 10 people would die and that if he didn't kill me 10 different people would die. In that scenario, the final decision comes down to this: Am I willing to sacrifice myself in order to not actively kill someone? And would I be wrong/what does it say about me if I wasn't?



In real life, I would not believe the person telling me such a story. Someone who would be willing to kill ten people because you refused to murder someone, or allow yourself to be murdered, is likely someone who will have little qualms about lying about what the person will do.

But setting aside reality for a moment, I think there is nothing wrong with you refusing to kill the other person, and refusing to simply let the other person kill you. Of course, if the other person attacks you, you may end up either killing or being killed, and if you are able to decide whether you win the fight or not, I don't think I would call you immoral no matter which way you decided.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 08:07 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;122552 wrote:
Whenever making a bet, there are two things to consider: the odds, and what one has to gain or lose. In this case, although one would likely not lose, if one did lose, it would be very, very bad. I never bet anything that I cannot afford to lose, unless it is impossible for me to lose. This is not a case that is impossible to lose.

If I got cancer, it might be treatable with current technology, and even if it wasn't, if the pain became unbearable, I could commit suicide. That option would not be available were I to lose the bet. So, from a purely self-interested standpoint, I would not take the bet.


You don't seem to object strongly to dying of cancer, do you prefer suicide to saving millions of lives? You're odds of dying of are way higher than the odds of your number coming up.


Quote:
However, I think there is more to it than that. I agree with 1CellOfMany in that being willing to torture someone to death is bad in itself, and so I would not want to have any part in such a thing. I think it would be terrible to live in a society in which such things were regarded as not only acceptable, but the right thing to do.

You appear to view the matter from the standpoint of the consequences. I happen to think that it would be a bad consequence to live in a society willing to torture people, but let us set that aside for the moment.
I made a similar argument at one point when we were discussing the organ donor example. To live in a society where people were capable of callously torturing others would be pretty bad. But this is an isolated example. It would only require one or two truly callous people. We have millions of sociopaths as it is. Doing this would not create more, people would retain their moral instincts.


Quote:
Do you think that these things should be judged by their consequences? If so, why?

I happen to think that ethics is not about consequences. I will give you an example to illustrate why. Suppose we think of a murderer. In such a case, there is (presumably) a bad consequence in that someone is dead. Let us compare this with an attempted murderer. In such a case, let us say, no harm is done, so should we think it is okay to be an attempted murderer because there were no bad consequences? I think that attempted murder, and murder, are ethically equivalent. And if I am right about that, then ethics is not about the consequences. And if that is the case, we should not judge the answer to the original question by the consequences.

The consequences are relevant to what is practical, but I don't think they matter from an ethical standpoint.
The consequences have to be considered. Is torturing thousands of lab rats wrong? Not if you are trying to develop a vaccine. Coincidentally, the OP was angling for "you wouldn't kill a human with an animal like sentience to cure cancer, so animal testing is wrong" conclusion.

The attempted murder is wrong because there are no good consequences to outweigh the act. Attempting to murder someone is fine if murdering them would save a billion lives. Which I think, was a point we disagreed on in the last thread.
 
Camerama
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 09:30 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Though, from a consequentialist standpoint, this act can be rationalized, I do not see it's justifiability. In my opinion, the degree of evil shouldn't be determined quantitatively. Say it took 2, or 3, or 50,000; would your decision remain consistent? I see evil in the nature of the act, before i weight it's external benefits. Murder is an unnatural, evil act. What value constitutes it's legality? $1,000,000, 100 lives? More? Less?
If a terrorist planted a nuke and threatened detenation unless Bill Gates died, would murder be defensible? Do his philanthropic endeavors negate the doom of an entire city?
Without conscious consent, this is murder. It boils down to whether or not murder is justifiable. I say naaaah. The scenario cannot be rationally weighed, with an irrational variable on one side.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Mon 25 Jan, 2010 09:58 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Imagine if you were shown a vision, before you made the choice, of each and every child who died of cancer, their struggle, and the misery of their family. A very realistic vision, as if you were there beside them. And then you went on and on, seeing the newlyweds, madly in love with each other, and watch them discover the wife's breast cancer on their honeymoon, watched her gradually grow sicker and die, watched him blow his brains out, mad with grief. Do you think your decision would be different?

Sorry for laying it on so thick, but I find ignoring the consequences to be abhorrent.
 
Amperage
 
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 01:36 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;122649 wrote:
Imagine if you were shown a vision, before you made the choice, of each and every child who died of cancer, their struggle, and the misery of their family. A very realistic vision, as if you were there beside them. And then you went on and on, seeing the newlyweds, madly in love with each other, and watch them discover the wife's breast cancer on their honeymoon, watched her gradually grow sicker and die, watched him blow his brains out, mad with grief. Do you think your decision would be different?

Sorry for laying it on so thick, but I find ignoring the consequences to be abhorrent.
1. I can only be responsible for the choice in front of me....that choice being to force a man against his will to suffer and die.

2. Cancer is very very sad but, as I said before, ain't none of us getting out of this thing(life) alive. And we have many ways in modern medicine to make people as comfortable as possible. Losing a loved one never feels good whether they die of cancer at 7 yrs old or die in their sleep at age 105. The people surrounding the issue always have 2 choices to make...they can either let the incident strengthen them or they can let it take them down too

3. what about the implications and precedent that gets set when we decide to kill a man to attempt to cure cancer? do we start killing people to cure aids, to cure heart disease, kidney failure, liver disease, etc. etc. etc.

4. for every victim of cancer you discussed there is a victim who is a survivor of cancer and a story of hope and joy and charity and courage and togetherness and just overall joy

I'm not suggesting we ignore the consequences but let us not forget that there are consequences to murdering a man too.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 09:56 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;122631 wrote:
...

I made a similar argument at one point when we were discussing the organ donor example. To live in a society where people were capable of callously torturing others would be pretty bad.



I very much agree with that idea (I do not recall whether I mentioned my agreement with that idea in that other thread; I should have, though).


Jebediah;122631 wrote:
But this is an isolated example. It would only require one or two truly callous people. We have millions of sociopaths as it is. Doing this would not create more, people would retain their moral instincts.



No, it requires more than just that one or two people are "callous". It requires a society that allows such things. So it has systemic implications.


Jebediah;122631 wrote:
... Coincidentally, the OP was angling for "you wouldn't kill a human with an animal like sentience to cure cancer, so animal testing is wrong" conclusion.
...


Since you would kill a normal human for such things, that argument obviously will not get any traction with you.

I think, though, that the last paragraph of the opening post suggests a different position than you seem to think. But, as no position is explicitly stated, we are left to wait and see what Oikeiosis's position is, if Oikeiosis posts such information.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 12:06 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;122728 wrote:

No, it requires more than just that one or two people are "callous". It requires a society that allows such things. So it has systemic implications.


We already allow people to be murdered willy nilly. People have a certain level of natural immunity to acts of cruelty that occur outside of their community. How would allowing a murder to cure cancer have negative implications for a society that allows genocide in foreign countries?


Quote:
I think, though, that the last paragraph of the opening post suggests a different position than you seem to think. But, as no position is explicitly stated, we are left to wait and see what Oikeiosis's position is, if Oikeiosis posts such information.
We discussed something similar in the eating and killing animals thread.

Amperage wrote:
1. I can only be responsible for the choice in front of me....that choice being to force a man against his will to suffer and die.


I don't really understand this. If your choice has a definite effect, but isn't right in front of you, you aren't responsible?

Quote:
2. Cancer is very very sad but, as I said before, ain't none of us getting out of this thing(life) alive. And we have many ways in modern medicine to make people as comfortable as possible. Losing a loved one never feels good whether they die of cancer at 7 yrs old or die in their sleep at age 105. The people surrounding the issue always have 2 choices to make...they can either let the incident strengthen them or they can let it take them down too
By this logic, since none of us get out of thing alive, why is murder wrong? The guys family can either let it strengthen them or they can let it down. :listening:

Do you really think that an 8 year old losing their mother is the same as a 70 year old losing their mother?

Quote:

4. for every victim of cancer you discussed there is a victim who is a survivor of cancer and a story of hope and joy and charity and courage and togetherness and just overall joy
The overall effect of cancer is 'joy"? :surrender:
 
Amperage
 
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 02:31 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;122752 wrote:
I don't really understand this. If your choice has a definite effect, but isn't right in front of you, you aren't responsible?
if the immediate choice is between doing something immoral or doing something moral, then that takes precedence above any future implications. As I said, either way I choose there will be dire consequences so I choose to make the moral decision.

Jebediah;122752 wrote:
By this logic, since none of us get out of thing alive, why is murder wrong? The guys family can either let it strengthen them or they can let it down. :listening:
not exactly. As I stated earlier taking someone's life against their will is immoral, thereby negating that argument.

Jebediah;122752 wrote:
Do you really think that an 8 year old losing their mother is the same as a 70 year old losing their mother?
Of course it's not the same but an 8 year old losing their mother does not mean anything in and of itself. There have been countless people who have lost parents at a young age and became even more motivated and successful than perhaps they would have had they not lost that parent. I'm not saying it's a good thing in either case but what I'm saying is that no one murders the mother, whereas you're suggesting we start murdering people so that 8 year old won't lose their mother.

Jebediah;122752 wrote:
The overall effect of cancer is 'joy"? :surrender:
The overall effects can be. Family members who may not have spoken in 20 years can come together through the loss and heal old wounds, children can become motivated to become doctors to find a cure for the very illness that took their parent. Loved ones can start foundations to raise money for other people in their positions, etc. etc. etc.....My point is that the result of cancer does not have to the worst thing ever
 
Leonard
 
Reply Tue 26 Jan, 2010 02:58 pm
@Oikeiosis,
Rather than kill a homeless man in the name of science and medicine, why is this a better choice than using a terminally ill cancer patient in the same way in an effort to cure a mental handicap? Or Roger could suffer this pain himself since he was the one who devised the cure.
 
Oikeiosis
 
Reply Wed 27 Jan, 2010 11:06 pm
@Leonard,
Thank you for your thoughtful responses. It seems that for most of us, the answer to the question posed in the OP is an intuitive No. Good.

It does not matter how large a benefit we will receive from exploiting an unconsenting human being. It does not matter whether the human in question is retarded or brilliant, rich or poor, popular or despised. We simply do not consider it morally acceptable to use sentient humans in this way. And it does not matter whether there is a feasible alternative to using humans: to use a human being in this way would be to treat him or her as a thing--exclusively as a means to an end.

We simply do not allow humans to be used in biomedical experiments without informed consent, and we uniformly condemn such conduct whenever it is brought to light. The Nazis' use of humans in experiments prompted the international community to embrace the Nuremberg Code, which forbids research on unconsenting subjects. I take this as a moral step forward.

The reason that we must categorically protect the interests of humans in not being treated as the resources of other humans--despite the projected beneficial consequences of such treatment and irrespective of the particular characteristics of those whom we seek to use as resources--is simple. If we do not protect this interest across the board, then some humans will be treated as things whenever it is determined to be in the interests of other humans. If the human interest in not suffering has any moral significance, then we cannot treat humans merely as resources. If some humans are treated as the resources of others, then the principle of equal consideration can never apply to their interests in not suffering. Humans who are for whatever reason regarded only as resources will never have interests similar to those of humans who are not regarded as resources.

If the principle of equal consideration is to have any meaningful application, then we must, at the very least, recognize that all sentient humans have an interest in not suffering as the result of their use as the resources of others. We can and do express this idea in one fundamental way: we say that all humans have a basic right not to be treated exclusively as means to the ends of others. Humans must receive this minimal baseline protection if they are to have any morally significant interests in not suffering as a result of their use as our resources. We apply this basic right to sentient humans across the board, and we do so irrespective of their capacities or characteristics, because we generally accept the noble intuition that cognitive inferiority is not a relevant measure of moral inferiority, ever.
 
 

 
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