Law and Morality

Topics: Law, Morality, Decision making Pages: 6 (2156 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Law and Morality

It is not an everyday occurrence that someone must decide the fate of another's life. The dilemma of making a decision that someone must die in order for the others to survive, can obviously be troubling. The process in which the termination of one's life may be easy to make, but to justify that decision is the most difficult one. This paper is given a situation in which a decision of taking one's life is essential. The situation is that a nuclear war has occurred, which has destroyed most of the centres of civilization. There are five people that are that have escaped death by finding their way to a nuclear bunker. These five people consist of a pregnant woman; an old man, who is a retired judge; two teenagers - a fourteen-year-old boy and a sixteen-year-old girl; and a young and healthy woman who is a doctor. They all have been there for fifteen days and they must remain there for an additional fifteen days before they can be rescued. The problem is that although there are five of them in the bunker, there is only enough food for four people to survive for the remaining fifteen days. Rationing the food will not be of any use, because all will die with such a plan. The only way for most of the survivors to live for the next fifteen days is for one to die. Somehow they have contacted an outside source to advise them on the questions of "Who shall die?", and "How should the decision of choosing the person be carried out?" These are all very difficult questions to answer, but something must be done. It is unlikely that someone will voluntarily allow someone to kill them so that the others may live, that is why another form of decision making must be allowed. The best way to do so is probably by that outside aid to suggest that they try drawing lots. For example whoever pulls the shortest straw is the one who dies. With no time to procrastinate, this would seem the most time efficient and fairest way to choose who will die. Of course a reason must be provided to the person who had drawn the shortest straw, and that is the objective of this paper. This essay will explain how the decision will be made that will ultimately take one of the survivor's lives to save the remaining four people. From that explanation of the decision made, it will attempt to justify it. This paper proposes to explain and justify the decision by using legal tools such as Law and Morality, the Meta Rule, and The Doctrine of Necessity. The advice provided on how to carry out the unfortunate death of an innocent person may not be a "right" one, but perhaps it will be legally and morally justified.

Law and morality play a large role here, mainly because there is a legal issue and a moral issue associated with the predicament. The reason law has a part in the situation is that after the decision is made, it will be examined legally and must be accountable for its consequences. Morality has its place too, because many will find it morally wrong to take one's life despite any justification.

....there is some connection between law and morality, but the two are clearly not identical. First, morality is only concerned with right or wrong, with the good and evil; law is concerned with lots of things on which there is no right and wrong - procedures for land registration, incorporation and so on. Second, morality is to some extent uncertain and a matter for each individual, law tries to be objective, written down in black and white and there for all to see. Third, morality often leaves things vague and subject to general principle, law goes into specifics.1

From that description of law and morality, it is obvious how they relate to the issue here. When the time comes for one of the five people in the bunker eventually to die, it must be legally justified. The reason for this is that murder is illegal, unless legally justified.2 On the other hand, reasons for the killing must be provided to put to ease those who question the dilemma in...
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