Thompson in "some ruminations on rights 1986" asks the following question: ( loosely paraphrased)
A child is dying in your town and the only available source of the medicine required to save it's life close enough is in a locked box on your porch which contains a massive supply of it.
You are out of town and cannot be contacted for your consent. Is it morally permissible for someone to break into your box to get the required medicine to save the child and should they be punished for doing so?
This sort of question is constructed in such a way as to give a positive answer as a negative one would be seen as immoral.
On the contrary there is all sorts of disagreement on the issue. Rights based philosophers and consequentialists disagree strongly on the ethical implications.
Is the question asked only of the philosophers and consequentialists then? Or is it more of a question for the general consumption of the masses? If the later is true then the question is constructed in such a way to give a positive answer, this answer may indeed be debated about by such philosophers and consequentialists as to why such an answer was given.
The question is for thought and thus for anyone capable of thinking. It is not written to create an answer but rather to identify a point of conflict between two ethical systems and thus test them.
Then you don't believe the question is set to show the greater and lesser consequence of making the decision?
Most people who are asked the question would weigh up the lesser of the consequence, theft surely is better than letting a child die, so the question should be would you steel from someone just because he has something you want or need?
The question doesn't consider why the medicine is in a locked box or why the owner of the medicine decided to have the medicine.
As I said the question is weighted so any normal person would agree that it would be morally right if the life of a child was involved.
I see it as a very good illustration that the reality of life is a grey world, not a black and white unqualified right or wrong world.
It is a good illustration of the value of common sense and judgement. Two factors I believe necessary to a rational society.
The box is broken open. Part of a "massive" quantity of an owned item is taken. A child's life is saved. To further the scenario, assume the box is repaired and the removed quantity replaced. My common sense says this is an equitable solution for all. My sense of judgement says no real harm was done, but a great good was. To frame this act in the same moral/legal light of say, murder or armed robbery, (moral or immoral, right or wrong), is just an exercise in philosophical discussion. Fine for the parlor, unsuited for the realities of life. So have at it.
To extrapolate this scenario to the broader discussion is an inappropriate example. I know my world has grey areas - and I am fine with that.
ps. but it is a good forum topic that will allow all of us arm-chair, (should that be computer chair?) moralists have a go at it.
I'd have to say that it would be morally reprehensible to leave life saving medicine locked up without accessibility. I suspect we have laws in place that prevents people from purposely with holding medicine.
But this is essentially what is down when life saving medicine is priced beyond the ability of uninsured people to pay for it.
Are you saying that in your country if one walks into the ER with say a snake bit, he wouldn't be given life saving meds?
I am saying their are cure for genetic disorders that are degenerative and fatal that people do not get due solely to lack of money. You can ask the maker to provide it for free, they do not always do so. I am saying that there are people will uncontrolled diabetes due to lack of money, and it will eventually kill them. And so on.
Sometimes government intervention is required to help corporations with ethics as there very nature is greed.
Indeed. And moral crimes of desperation are ways we detect the government failing to do its job.
It is also true that some treatments are simple to expensive for the government to provide especially if they are still experimental and have no guarantee of success. But I still would not blame parents for being willing to break the law to try and get them.
I don't believe in buying organs on the black market, but if a family member was going to die--I might do it.
Morally reprehensible perhaps though quite possibly not if you were simply not aware that there was a shortage of this medication in this town.
As for illegal it definitely is not, please point to the law.
Every year people die because they can't afford chemo treatments for example yet pharmaceutical companies (and I guess hospitals) definitely do have stockpiles.
Illegal to lock it up on your front porch? Leave it unlocked and you will quickly find it is illegal not to lock it up - it's called an "attractive nuisance" relative to curious children.
I suspect you are correct. It would constitute negligence perhaps. Though it depends on how good your fence is etc.
I worked for a company that had a large pool of acid at one location, 1/4 mile from any public road. Three kids cut their way through 2 chain link fences with bolt cutters, both plainly marked with "Danger" signs and topped with barbed wire, plus one fence around the entire property, and jumped in. One kid survived and the company paid a massive court award as that "attractive nuisance". It's not about fairness it's about who can pay.
Civil case is different. I was referring to criminal.
Actually, I'm not sure where that falls. If a kid falls into your swimming pool and dies, is it civil or criminal? Are you effectively charged with murder? The case with the company was long ago and I don't remember all the details, just that the kids cut through 3 fences, jumped into acid and died. And that the company Paid, with a capital P, because they didn't do enough to protect trespassers from harm.
If a kid falls into your swimming pool, it can be both criminal and/or civil, depending on the circumstances. Not murder though, murder would require you meant for him or her to die in the pool.
Should the parents of the child be charged with negligence?
That's what I meant - not a legal charge of murder, but still criminal.
I see, well in Canada we have something called the Good Samaritan act. In the US you have something called the Good Samaritan law, which from my understanding is very different. I don't know if you have the equivalent of the Good Samaritan act or not, but essentially we have a duty to help those in need as long as it doesn't put us in danger. We also have universal healthcare therefore no child or adult would have to go without chemotherapy.
For the life of a child, I won't think twice. I will allow it. It is fair. If it will help a "human" being I will tergiversate. Just imagine if the person is another Rumsfeld or Bush? A radical NO. I will SUE them. Isn't it private property, after all?
The question is, is it right? In your example it is right.
Yes and yes, and an adult wouldn't quibble over the consequences.
You are asking for an opinion, based on personal morals. OK -
No, theft is not moral under any circumstances.
No, the theft should not be punished.
You didn't ask, but I would lead the crowd and wield the crowbar to open the box, as well as take any punishment demanded. That does NOT make theft moral.
That is a contradictory view, if something is the right thing to do it is moral, if a rule exists that makes the right thing to do immoral then it's the rule not the act which is broken.
Not at all; not everything we do is moral. For instance, taxing the rich to give it to the poor is, in a way, theft and thus immoral. Taxing the rich more than others is immoral. Yet we do both; we voluntarily perform immoral acts in order to maintain our country.
Life is what it is, and life does not always allow the choices we would wish without paying consequences that we cannot or will not accept. So we do things we know are wrong, but do them anyway.
I might add that appropriate "punishment" would be to replace the stolen medication and repair any damage done.
But again what is moral is what is right... That does not mean what is moral is always simple or straight forward but if you do the wrong thing you act immorally and if you do the right thing you act morally. That is what moral means.
The punishment you propose is simply compensation which seems reasonable to me, basically I would see the correct ethical route as the person who took it offering compensation and the person it was taken from (unless they were in dire need) refusing the compensation.
I would say it is moral to do, but it may still be right to punish it. Many people need things to live that that other people have--such as money to buy expensive medicines for their uninsured kids--that does not make burglary legal.
So we should punish people for doing the right thing?
Please note that someone's own children makes the issue a different one, partly because it introduces an extra level of irrational emotion into the issue (how can we expect a frantic parent of a dying child to make a considered ethical decision) and also an element of self positioning that breaks the universal rule (i.e. they broke into the box to save THEIR child BECAUSE it was their child rather than broke into the box to save A child because they wanted to save a child).
I fully expect a frantic parent to act responsibly. Sure, people act on impulse and cannot help it, but gathering tools, driving across town and beating open a locked box isn't impulse.
The right thing for the person is not necessarily the right thing for the community.
If a community finds they are convicting people of crimes of desperation (conviction does not mean there is any penalty) they need to increase social services. That is the answer, not legalizing stealing. Stealing is and should be illegal. Communities should have services so stealing is not the only way to save a child.
Stealing in this case would be an act of civil disobedience.
I agree with Wilderness by wielding the crowbar or at least helping him with it. Firstly, morality is of the individual's ideals and ethics is of the grouping dynamic's ideals. Doing the act itself based on a personal decision of right or wrong is of morality. Doing the act of against the will of consensus would be unethical.
A conflict occurs between ethics and morality.
Ethics evolve to become laws to clarify those instances regarding dispute where impunity is considered for the action and too punishment. If not a penalty as provided by law more than likely a social force such folkway or mores described and defined by the local culture or society(s) will occur or a social shunning as an example. Of course there would be the consideration of compassion and forgiveness at any of the decision and action steps.
The only law off my head that would occur is unlawful breaking and entry. Yet, that would be subject to the local penal code's definition for property. I don't know if that would a misdemeanor or a felony.
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