You have a 8 year old daughter, who is happy, outgoing, and full of joy. One day something terrible happens: your daughter gets raped. You are quite positive that the rapist of your daughter is your neighbor. Your daughter is unable to talk after the encounter, but she has convinced you through other ways that your neighbor is indeed the rapist. Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence found to convict him. Your family and you move out of that neighborhood and try to reorganize your lives. Your daughter still suffers from this experience years later in her life. This event has effectively ruined her life.
It is your daughter’s thirteenth birthday, and your family goes out to dinner to celebrate. While at dinner you see your former neighbor, who raped your daughter five years ago. He is sitting alone and looks unhappy. You do not say anything to alert the rest of your family to his presence as this will just bring up the horrible memories from the past. The next day you discover that your former neighbor’s wife has been murdered; there is evidence to convict your former neighbor of his wife’s murder. You know that your former neighbor did not commit this crime because at the time of the murder he was at the restaurant. The police said that the murder was set up to look like a burglary.
You consider the possibilities… Did your former neighbor pay someone to kill his wife? Do you go to the police and give him an alibi, even though he could be responsible for his wife’s death? Or, do you do nothing and let him go to prison? By doing so, you let the real murderer walk away. What would you do in this moral situation?
Imagine that you are an inmate within a concentration camp; a sadistic guard generates a moral issue for you. The guard caught your son trying to escape from the concentration camp, and he is going to hang him. He wants you to pull the chair from underneath your son; the guard claims that if you do not pull the chair, he will kill some other innocent inmates additionally. You do not doubt the word of the guard, regarding the death of the other inmates. What do you do in this moral dilemma? Does your choice change depending on who the other inmates are or how many of them will die?
A runaway trolley car is flying down the tracks. In the path of the trolley car are five people; they will most definitely be killed if the trolley car continues on this path. There is however a switch that can divert the trolley car onto another track. On this track is only one person, who will be killed if the trolley takes this path. Do you as a bystander flip the switch so that the trolley car only killed one person, or leave it on its original course to kill five people? Does your choice change depending if you personally know the one person? In this moral dilemma of the runaway trolley car, what supports your underlying decision of who lives and who dies?
You are an emergency worker and arrive at the scene of a serious car accident. You quickly recognize the car as your wife’s. As you make your way over to the car, you notice another man in the car with your wife. Your wife sees you and mouth’s to you the words, “I’m sorry”. You are baffled at this, but her look confirms the worst. She is having an affair; the man in the car is her lover.
Your wife is seriously hurt and needs attention immediately. Even if she is administered care, there is a high likelihood that she will still die. The man in the seat next to her is only bleeding heavily from a neck wound. The flow of blood must be stopped immediately if he is to live. It will only take a few minutes to stop his bleeding, but this means that your wife will surely die. Who do you choose to administer care to in this moral dilemma? Does it matter that the chances of survival for each patient is quite different? Does this recent discovery of your wife’s affair affect your decision?
In 1990, Jeffery Cain was killed due to a road rage shooting in Anchorage, Alaska. George Kerr learned from his friends that they were the ones responsible for Cain’s death, and he proceeded to tell the police what he knew about the shooting. Kerr said:
I usually would not rat out my friends, but this is just so severe I got to do it.
After George Kerr’s friends were convicted of this crime, they made a revenge plan and sent a bomb to his home intended to kill him. Kerr was not home; the bomb killed his father. If you were in George Kerr’s position, what would you have done?
Imagine that you are in the situation described: A friend confides in you that they have committed a crime; you promise never to tell anyone. You learn that an innocent person has been accused of the crime that your friend committed. You ask your friend to give themselves up, but they refuse and remind you of the promise you accepted. What do you do regarding this moral issue? Does your decision change depending on the type of crime – murder, embezzlement, hit and run? Where do you draw the line in this moral dilemma, with regards to when to reveal your friend and when you keep their promise?