Ethical Code In The Article The Overcrowed Lifeboat

1328 words - 6 pages

Ethical dilemmas create a challenge between two or more equally alternative problems requiring moral judgment. This creates both an obligation and dilemma for those involved. Living in such a globalized world with cross-cultural borders, races, and ideas; negotiating what is considered morally “right” can sometimes be very difficult. Both religion and laws have a major impact in ethical duties. What an individual may presume as right cannot be guaranteed by the government or political party. The Overcrowded Lifeboat is just one example in which all the ideas above come to play in ethical decisions.
In 1842 a tragedy occurred when a ship struck an iceberg and more than thirty passengers piled onto a rescue boat that was meant to hold a maximum of seven people. As a storm became evident and water rushed into the lifeboat, it was clear that in order for anyone to survive the load would need to be lightened. The commanding captain suggested that some people would need to be thrown overboard in order for anyone to survive. There was a great argument on the boat between the captain and the passengers who opposed his decision. Some suggested that the weakest should be drowned, as miles of rowing the lifeboat would take toll on even the strongest. This reasoning would also make it absurd to draw names of who should be thrown over. Others suggested that if they all stayed onboard no one would be responsible for the deaths, although the captain argued he would be guilty if those who he could have saved perished in the process. Alternatively the captain decided that the weakest would be sacrificed in order to save the few left on the lifeboat. Days later the survivors were rescued and the captain was put on trial for his virtues.
The decision whether the captain’s choice was justified is left to the individual, creating many different opinions. I believe the captain made the right decision for the welfare of the passengers on the boat. If he had not forced the weakest overboard more deaths would have resulted then necessary. Alternatively the passengers who were thrown overboard would have the opposite outlook. Trying to make a decision in an unrealistic event is much different then when we are placed in a real life tragedy. It is a person’s natural instincts to protect themselves and those they care about. If it came down to either saving a stranger you have never known or yourself most people will fight for what they need or want. Although when it comes down to a large group of people involved, saving the majority and allowing them to live is a greater substitute then allowing everyone to perish. By only pushing the weakest of the passengers overboard, the captain implied the theory of “survival of the fittest.” This phrase is an alternative description describing natural selection. Herbert Spencer first used the term after applying it to Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species, which entails that only the most physically fit are those able to...

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