You are driving down a deserted highway when you come upon an accident. A man is trapped in a burning car and there is no way to get him out. His arms are broken, his legs pinned.The fire is now close to the gas tank and you know she is going to blow. The man says, “I have a gun in my bag behind me. Please get it and shoot me. I do not want to suffer death by fire.” He starts screaming that the heat is getting so intense. “Please, just do it!” he screams.
Do you shoot?
Years ago before the invention of cell phones this situation would be much more of a dilemma than it might seem to be now. As technology changes so does our ability to respond to the ethical dilemmas before us.
I always find people amazing who declare they know EXACTLY what they would do if they were in this situation or that. People who are so sure of themselves that they believe without a doubt that every situation is so cut and dry that there is only one answer and they would automatically follow it. That they would always choose the legal way, the most noble path or the one that God expects of them. Unfortunately, life is usually a lot more messy than we counted on and the path is usually not as clear as what we imagine when we make these types of proclamations.
Once a young mother of four and I were once discussing the illegal immigrant situation. She is in favor of building a wall between our nation and Mexico. She believes that if she was a Mexican citizen she would go through proper channels to come here. She is steadfast in that belief. When I presented her with varying scenarios such as:
Would she cross the border illegally if her children were starving
Would she come illegally if there was a violent war and killing in the streets
Might she slip over if her family was split up and her kids were needing their dad who was living illegally in the USA
She always answered that no matter what she would go through proper channels because that it what you do. You follow the law no matter what.
I think that is easy for United States citizens to believe they would do the “right” thing because we really have not been put to the test for close to 170 years. For the most part we don’t live in fear of our lives on a daily basis, we don’t have bombs falling from the sky, and most of us are not dying of starvation. For the most part we are not put in the position of having to live the unimaginable or to live our lives surrounded by fear, so we don’t really know how we would react in crisis situations. We like to imagine that we would hold steadfast to our beliefs but do we really ever truly know until we are faced with these true life dilemmas?
What I do know is it is often very difficult to do the “right” thing. Situations are muddy, emotions are involved and there are plenty of reasons both pro and con to take or refuse to take a particular action.But I also know that the time that took the path that felt ethically wrong to me has caused me more heartache and pain than if I had the “right” thing. Going against your own moral fiber is one of the most cutting things you can ever do to yourself and you have have to live with those regrets the rest of your life…I certainly have and I quit my profession in large part because of it.
So back to the man in the car.
What will you do and can you live with your decision for the rest of your life?