The moral dilemma is as follows, a train is hurtling down a track, you are the driver, you notice that there are 5 workers on the track, there is no way you can stop, and if you continue forward the 5 workers will certainly die. You notice there is a junction in the track, if you turn onto the other track there is only one person working on that section, so only one person would die, would you turn down the track? Or continue on and kill 5?
This moral dilemma was first proposed by Philippa Foot in 1967, the issue focuses on morality. Can it be right to kill one person to save 5? If you do nothing, then 5 people will die, if you change track, then one person will die. When presented with this question, the vast majority seem to lean towards killing the one person to save the 5, however is this morally acceptable? Can it be right to kill someone, to murder them, in order to bring about good for others?
There are several alternative scenarios which dig deeper into the moral principles at work here, so lets take a look at a more focused example. In this scenario, you are on a bridge with a very fat man, the train track this time is straight, there is no alternative track. There is a train coming down the track, and just as before there are 5 men working on the track, they will certainly be killed if the train hits them, however, if the fat man was to block to train, it would stop the train and the 5 workers would survive. Its important to ignore the unrealistic physics here, this is a moral experiment and it doesn’t really matter if a fat man will or wont stop a train, in this example he will definitely stop the train and the 5 workers will survive. The question then, is would you push the fat man onto the track to save the 5 workers? Again, if you do, you will kill or murder the one man, but save 5.
In the first example, most people tend to suggest to change track, killing the one to save the five, in the second example, its not as clear cut. People start to question, the physical act of throwing a man onto the track seems to disturb some. However what is the difference in reality? Morally, the two cases are similar, we are knowingly, and willingly sacrificing one person for 5.
The last example put forward by Judith Jarvis Thomson, will push the scenario to its limit, imagine you are a doctor, there are 5 patients, each one is dying. They all need a new organ to survive, each one needs a different organ. Whilst you are looking for an organ donor, a healthy patient walks into the clinic, he has all 5 organs that are needed. So if that one healthy patient was sacrificed, all five sick patients would be able to have the organs they require and recover. What is the right thing to do here? If we sacrifice the one healthy patient, 5 people will survive.
In each case it appears that there is the option of either one person dying or 5 people dying, and the choice is one or 5.
So what is the moral position? Does Islam have any answers to these scenarios?