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10 More Moral Dilemmas

by David Hopkins
fact checked by Alex Hanton

Morality is fun to debate. At the end of last December, I posted a list of another 10 dilemmas. By the comments submitted, I realize many did not feel that they had sufficient debatable merit. Therefore, I have posted 10 more, which I think will be more thought provoking and agonizing than my first list. Please tell us what you would do in each scenario via comments.


Doctor’s Sick Patients


You are a very skilled doctor with five dying patients, each of whom needs a different organ in order to live. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of the transplants. It just so happens that you have a sixth dying patient, suffering from a fatal illness, who will die sooner than the other five if not treated. If this sixth patient dies, you will be able to use his organs to save the five other patients. However, you have a medicine you can give to this sixth patient that will cure his illness and he won’t die. Would you:

a: Wait for the patient to die and then harvest his organs or
b: Save the patient even though the other patients won’t get organs.

If you chose to administer the medicine, would you still do so even if the medicine will not cure the patient, but, instead, delay his death to some short term future date or time after the five patients will have died? Why?


Robin Hood Robber

Robin Hood

You have witnessed a man rob a bank, but then, he did something completely unusual and unexpected with the money. He donated it to an orphanage that was poor, run-down and lacking in proper food, care, water and amenities. The sum of money would be a great benefit to the orphanage, and the children’s lives would turn from poor to prosperous. Would you:

a: Call the police and report the robber, even though they would likely take the money away from the orphanage, or
b: Do nothing and leave the robber and the orphans alone?


Friend’s Wedding


Your best friend is about to get married. The ceremony will be performed in one hour, but you have seen, just before coming to the wedding, that your friend’s fiancee has been having an affair. If your friend marries this woman, she is unlikely to be faithful, but on the other hand, if you tell your friend about the affair, you will ruin his wedding. Would you, or would you not, tell your friend of the affair?


Plagiarized Report


You are head of a student council at a high school, and are faced with a difficult decision regarding a grade-twelve girl’s risky, last-resort choice. This girl is an honor student. All through her academic years, she has obtained straight A’s, has many friends and has never been disciplined by the principal. However, near the end of her grade twelve year, she fell ill with the flu and fell way behind in her school work. She missed three weeks of class, which resulted in her having to rush a report that would be worth 40% of English, a required graduation subject in her curriculum. She was so desperate about the report that she went online and passed off a report she found on that subject as her own. Her English teacher caught her and has referred her to you. If you enter on her academic record that she plagiarized, she will likely not be eligible to be accepted into St. Steven’s University, a school she has dreamed of attending all through high school and needs in order to fulfill her academic and future dreams.
What would you do?


Photo Shop

Darkroom Lawrence 38808S

You are a developer at a photo outlet. There have been six instances over the past several weeks in which the same parents have taken film to you for developing. In those pictures you have processed, you have seen those parents with a little boy, obviously their young son. In three of those six cases, the child appeared to be injured in some way. One time, he had a bruise, one time he had a burn, one time he had multiple bruises and a cast. The first time you saw him with some degree of injury, you just thought to yourself, “Well, kids will be kids,” but, now that you have seen him this way three out of six times, you are starting to grow concerned that these parents could be abusing their child.

You know the policy at your outlet is to “Report questionable photos”, but you fear that if you do so, the police will take outrageous measures to try to “protect” this child. The parents could be totally innocent after all, but a child protective agency may take the child without any thought. This would leave the parents facing criminal charges, an expensive court case and possibly have to keep fighting to win their child back, even if found not guilty.

On the other hand, maybe the parents are harming their son and to not intervene would mean he will have to endure more of this cruel treatment, maybe indefinitely.
You consider asking his parents what the relationship is between them and their child, but for all you know, they might just lie to protect themselves.
What would you do?


Fountain of Youth

P10 08

A man/woman (whichever is opposite your gender), is immortal, because (s)he and his/her family have drank from a fountain of youth, not knowing what it was. You are now in love with this person and have felt this way long enough that you know (s)he to be your destiny. However, the only way you can stay together forever is if you drink from the fountain of youth and become immortal, too. If you do this, however, your family and everyone else you know will grow old and eventually die, and you will never be reunited in heaven with them, or your loved ones that you have known, who have already died. On the other hand, if you don’t drink from the fountain, you will grow old and eventually die, and the person with whom you are in love will never see you again, and be condemned to an eternity of loneliness and only memories of you. What would you do?
(From Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt)


Concentration Camp, Revised

Alg Concentration Camp

You are an inmate in a concentration camp. A sadistic guard is about to hang your son who tried to escape, and is telling you to pull the chair out from under him. He says that if you don’t do so, the guard will kill not only your son who tried to escape, but also your other son, who is another innocent inmate. You have no doubt that he means what he says. What would you do?


Son and Granddaughter

Stock Traintracks Close-1

There is a train that, much to your horror, is about to run over your grown up son, who has been tied to its track. It just so happens that you have just enough time to flip a switch that will send the train down a different track, saving your son. However, tied to the other track, is your granddaughter, the daughter of the very son in danger of being run over. Your son is begging and pleading with you not to flip the switch, not to kill his daughter. What would you do?


Son’s Sacrifice

Screen Shot 2011-04-18 At 12.46.41 Pm

A very evil, uncontrollably murderous man tried to kill your son as a baby, but only succeeded in killing your son’s aunt and uncle, who were babysitting him. Since the murders, you fled into hiding, but now, you have discovered, in a prophecy, that when he tried to kill your son, a piece of the murderer’s soul left him and went into your son. For your son to defeat him, he must go forth and let the murderer kill him, destroying the piece of the murderer’s soul within your son. Otherwise, his piece of soul, within your son, will make the villain able to return if his body were destroyed. Your son has courageously accepted his fate and decides that he must die in order for his friends and allies to bring about the death of the villain and bring peace to the world, because it’s the only way. As his mother or father, would you:

a: Hold him back, because you love him too much to let him go, and feel you need to protect him as a parent, or
b: Accept his fate and choice just like he did and let him die. (Modified from Harry Potter by Joanne Rowling)




Jim has the responsibility of filling a position in his firm. His friend Paul has applied and is qualified, but someone else seems even more qualified. Jim wants to give the job to Paul, but he feels guilty, believing that he ought to be impartial. That’s the essence of morality, he initially tells himself. This belief is, however, rejected, as Jim resolves that friendship has a moral importance that permits, and perhaps even requires, partiality in some circumstances. So he gives the job to Paul. Was he right?

fact checked by Alex Hanton