Is Killing And Letting Die The Same Thing?

It should be clear, I think, that “kill” and “let die” are too blunt to be useful tools for the solving of this problem [1] .” The problem he is referring to is we tend to think that killing and letting have completely different perceptions. Thomson tries to give more details and explanation that killing and letting die might be the same thing whether we wish to believe it or not. She tries of explains this using the trolley problem, which raises the issue of killing and letting die.

The distinction between killing and letting die appears to be a specific case of the more general distinction between doing harm and allowing harm. But this is not quite right; most cases of killing involve doing harm, and most cases of letting die involve allowing harm. However, there are cases in which death is not harm, and therefore in which killing does not involve doing harm. There is case in which a continued life involves overwhelming suffering; death may be benefit to the sufferer.

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It follows that even if doing harm is morally worse, in itself, than allowing harm.

And the question arises from the trolley problem whether you should kill one person or kill five persons. Most people would agree that killing one persons and letting five live is more rational. While others would think that they should not do anything, which is let the trolley go through and kill five workers. The most significant argument on this would be towards the deontological position which says that every person is an end in it self and not just a mean to an end.

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But it can be insulting to consider the one person on the track as a mean to an end, which in this case to save five lives. For argument sake let us agree that killing is worse than letting die; and also let us say that if you allow someone to die, you could have prevented it from happening, you are not responsible for the death of that one person. In this case, it wouldn’t be considered insulting to allow five people to die; it can also assume that they were going to die anyway, and you are not the cause of their deaths. But on the other hand, it would be disrespectful to kill that one person to save the lives of five individuals, because you are causing the death directly. Given the scenario, it is not clear whether killing is worst that letting die, it can even be seen as being the same thing, allowing harm and killing. Given the example about our feeling about killing and letting die changes, one is not worse than the other; they seem now like the same thing.

Let us assume that in the case of killing and letting die, they are equivalent and they are in the same scenario as the one before. If you have the ability to prevent a death but refuse to do so, you are just as responsible for the death, as in the case if you had killed the person yourself. And in this scenario, you are responsible for the death of five people even if you didn’t cause their directly, but because you could have prevented it from happening. It can be seen that, the trolley problem is somewhat confusing since no matter which option you choose, you would be responsible for the death of at least one person.

So It can clearly been seen that, it does not matter what you do because either option you would be treating someone as a means rather than an end. It can also be argued that it is better to be respectful to a larger amount of rational beings than to fewer, therefore you can kill one rather than let five die, everything else is the same in bother instances. Considering our moral duty, whether in the case of letting die is considered the same as killing.

In the scenario with the bystander Thompson states to come to a solution with solving the Trolley problem we should focus on the concept of rights, focusing on the relationship between the bystanders and the one he would harm in his efforts to save the five. Basically, she is recommending that despite the fact the bystander is going to be treated wrongfully the person’s life she is about to be sacrificed. Whichever way the bystander chooses to intervenes to save the five lives by hitting a switch and diverting the trolley which is violating the rights of the other person. If the bystander decides to take part in the action, she is not considered a bystander according to Thomson’s, more like becoming actively involved. While the bystander may become hero for saving the five workmen by hitting the switch, at the same time she might be an assailant in respect to the person being sacrificed. Therefore, why wouldn’t it be morally allowable for the one person to protect himself against any danger that is threatening his life?

Thomson states if are in a position, if you do not kill someone, it they will bring about your death instead, it can justifiable in killing them first whether they are going to kill you knowingly, purposely, or cruelly. Thompson said, “once we agree that he is about to violate your right and that you can prevent this only by killing him it seems right to conclude that he no longer has a right that you not kill him.”

In concluding, Thomson solution to the problem says the workman would be justified if he shot and killed the bystander at the switch if it became clear that she was going to divert the trolley. But if justified self-defense requires a potential impermissible rights and the workman is justified in defending himself from the decisions and actions of the bystander, then it follows that the bystander’s decision to sacrifice the lone workman is impermissible after all.

In the case of being the conductor of the trolley providing the elements of the scenario remains the same killing five is worse than killing one. In addition she also states that “if a person is faced with a choice between doing something here and now to five, by the doing of which he will kill them, and doing something else here and now to one, by the doing of which he will kill only the one, then (other things being equal) he ought to choose the second alternation ration than the first. [2]

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Is Killing And Letting Die The Same Thing?. (2019, Aug 19). Retrieved from

Is Killing And Letting Die The Same Thing? essay
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