Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

What would you do if?

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ChaosBorders
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Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #1

Post by ChaosBorders »

Medical Treatments in the United States are quite expensive, often running in the thousands of dollars, even for people with insurance. The cost to save a child from dying of Vitamin A deficiency in Africa, however, is roughly $65.

So if you had the choice of saving yourself for $6500, or the choice of saving a hundred children for the same amount, which would you choose?

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Post #11

Post by McCulloch »

EduChris wrote:
McCulloch wrote:...Do people who participate in religions become more ethical by doing so?...
With time and effort and practice, yes--assuming their religious tradition actually fosters ethical and altruistic behavior (not all religious traditions do so). There is power in numbers, there is encouragement and support within community.
So, if we didn't have churches, we would have to invent them. Perhaps without the Heavenly Father, the threat of eternal torment, the absurdity of a three in one invisible being, the divisiveness or even the silly costumes.

OK, maybe with the silly costumes.

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Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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ChaosBorders
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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #12

Post by ChaosBorders »

EduChris wrote:
ChaosBorders wrote:...This reasoning breaks down though if you no longer earn any money or the operation is only expected to add a very short time to your life. What factors do you weigh then, if you are not able to do both?
What you are asking is whether we ought to perform acts of supererogation. Many variables would have to be taken into account, such as what do your loved ones think, and would your aid really be helping the children or just prolonging their suffering.
I'm more so asking for people's personal opinions and reasoning here, though I have considered putting a similar question in the right and wrong subforum for more active debating on the question of 'ought.' But I do agree with your assessment that many variables, such as those you suggested, would have to be taken into account.
EduChris wrote: Christians throughout history have performed acts of supererogation, and I find their example inspiring. However, I don't believe that the Christian faith requires us to value lives numerically; each life is a precious gift from God and no life can be reduced to mere quantitative analysis.
I do think more is at play than just numbers, but I also think numbers are given less consideration than they should be. I often see people try to save a loved one a few extra months they firmly believe will be better off once dead anyways, and may be completely delusional or actively not mind passing away, for the cost of tens of thousands of dollars which could save and vastly improve the lives of hundreds of people and wonder what their justification for such an action is.

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EduChris
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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #13

Post by EduChris »

ChaosBorders wrote:...I often see people try to save a loved one a few extra months they firmly believe will be better off once dead anyways, and may be completely delusional or actively not mind passing away, for the cost of tens of thousands of dollars which could save and vastly improve the lives of hundreds of people and wonder what their justification for such an action is.
Now you're really opening up a big can of worms. Our medical system is really out of whack. I have relatives in the former Soviet Union where medical care is supposedly "free" for everyone, but no one can get anything other than the most basic care unless they have cash to bribe the doctors. And my relatives living here in the U.S. don't have health insurance, but they can fly back to their home country and for just a fraction of the U.S. cost they can get the best care.

Medical missionaries overseas have often brought up similar questions. In the U.S., doctors are so afraid of getting sued for malpractice that they over-test and over-treat. If it weren't for the cost of malpractice insurance, our medical costs would decrease--because the doctors would pass on the insurance savings to the customers (presumably) and because the doctors wouldn't need to waste time and money over-testing and over-treating.

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ChaosBorders
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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #14

Post by ChaosBorders »

EduChris wrote: If it weren't for the cost of malpractice insurance, our medical costs would decrease--because the doctors would pass on the insurance savings to the customers (presumably) and because the doctors wouldn't need to waste time and money over-testing and over-treating.
Though often stated, and maybe even something that makes sense, many studies have shown it to be an inaccurate assumption. My own state has malpractice caps, but it has done very little to stop the price of health care from increasing. What is more, there is an issue that malpractice genuinely occurs on a fairly regular basis. I've read pretty regularly that about 50,000 people die from it each year, even more than die from a lack of health insurance. Furthermore, when the caps are too low many people never get their day in court because many lawyers won't even bother taking the case. Even if they do get their day in court they are often left with very little because of the lawyer's fees and such.

I do think there should be some reform in that area, but until I read some solid studies indicating that it'll curb health care cost increases by more than a few percent, I am inclined to think that is not the main problem.

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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #15

Post by EduChris »

ChaosBorders wrote:...many studies have shown it to be an inaccurate assumption...
Have you asked any doctors how they feel about it? Who funded the studies?

ChaosBorders wrote:...malpractice genuinely occurs on a fairly regular basis. I've read pretty regularly that about 50,000 people die from it each year...
Yes, there are bad doctors in the world. I guess that invalidates the entire practice of medicine. Ooops! I forgot! I can't use this reasoning, because some of the atheists on this forum have already used up this "logic" to invalidate all religion on the grounds that religious quacks exist... :roll:

ChaosBorders wrote:...until I read some solid studies indicating that it'll curb health care cost increases by more than a few percent, I am inclined to think that is not the main problem.
Did the studies take into account the expenses involved with over-testing and over-treating patients--not on the basis of good medical procedure, but merely because the doctors wanted to cover their arses against lawsuits?

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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #16

Post by ChaosBorders »

EduChris wrote: Have you asked any doctors how they feel about it? Who funded the studies?
Most of the doctors naturally want it, but that doesn't mean it's good for the patients. Read this business week article for the results of several meta-studies, all of which indicated tort reform wouldn't curb costs by more than a few percent. My own state is a good example:
Look at Texas, which enacted some of the most extensive malpractice reforms in the nation in 2003. The number of lawsuits in the state has fallen by half since then, and malpractice premiums are down 30%. But health-care costs in Texas are still among the highest in the nation and are growing at a faster rate than in most other states.
The problem is that even at the highest estimates, lawsuits only directly contribute to a couple percent of costs, and indirect costs like defensive medicine can bring up the total cost to 10%. But even if you got rid of ALL lawsuits, you still wouldn't get rid of all of the defensive medicine for the simple reason that insurance foots the bill most of the time, and doctors make more money by practicing it. They may use potential lawsuits as an excuse, but the reality is they usually make money by doing it. So even if you completely got rid of lawsuits, and even if the studies with the HIGHEST estimates are accurate, you still would never get more than a 10% reduction in rates. That's significant, but considering just how high the rates are, it's clearly not the main issue.
EduChris wrote: Yes, there are bad doctors in the world. I guess that invalidates the entire practice of medicine. Ooops! I forgot! I can't use this reasoning, because some of the atheists on this forum have already used up this "logic" to invalidate all religion on the grounds that religious quacks exist... :roll:
A) I apparently had the wrong number. The studies I was seeing while reviewing the tort reform issue all place it more like one to two hundred thousand and seem to think this is conservative.
B) Of course this doesn't invalidate the practice of medicine, but allowing for at least some recourse if the doctor is incompetent isn't necessarily a bad thing.
EduChris wrote: Did the studies take into account the expenses involved with over-testing and over-treating patients--not on the basis of good medical procedure, but merely because the doctors wanted to cover their arses against lawsuits?
Yes. But as noted above, doctors over-test for more reasons than just covering their arses. You won't get rid of all over-treating and over-testing through tort reform, and even if you did somehow it still wouldn't bring down rates to a reasonable level all on its own.

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Post #17

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EduChris wrote:
McCulloch wrote:...Do people who participate in religions become more ethical by doing so?...
With time and effort and practice, yes--assuming their religious tradition actually fosters ethical and altruistic behavior (not all religious traditions do so). There is power in numbers, there is encouragement and support within community.
Nice circular argument. Religious people are more ethical if their religion fosters ethics. But if the people aren't ethical their religion won't foster ethics, right? What you've really done is supported Mac's argument rather than refuted it.
If all the ignorance in the world passed a second ago, what would you say? Who would you obey?

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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #18

Post by realthinker »

McCulloch wrote:
EduChris wrote: Why not do both? A person who contributes $100 per month to needy children can amortize the $6500 he spends (to save himself) over the next 65 months, and then anything he contributes beyond that is pure generosity.
Because that is not within the framework of the question. The basic question is whether you would sacrifice yourself for the sake of one hundred others. The answer, for those of us who are alive in affluent countries is no, we would not. Otherwise, we would have already done so.
We have not done so because ethics is about how we treat those with whom we identify. Ethics is about what we sacrifice of ourselves to invest in our social groups to gain a higher probability of our own survival and that of our offspring.

We are simply not compelled to sacrifice our own resources for people that do not seem to return the contribution. If those 100 others are in no way in a position to help us and are in no way connected to those who might, it's not an ethical problem. If we turn away from our neighbors and their children and let them die our neighbors will exclude us from their social group. They won't feel compelled to help us. If we turn away from 100 anonymous people across the world from us we're giving away resources that won't likely come back to us if we should need. It would be unethical to make that contribution.

Your question is too simple. What relationship are these 100 people to me? Are they my neighbors? Are they anonymous people across the world? I'd die defending my family and my community. I'd work myself to death to give them a chance to live. But I won't do that for people who offer nothing, or who may even work against my community if given the chance. I'm better off letting them die than to take the chance that those people may have an opportunity to reduce my community's chance to survive.
If all the ignorance in the world passed a second ago, what would you say? Who would you obey?

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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #19

Post by ChaosBorders »

realthinker wrote: We have not done so because ethics is about how we treat those with whom we identify. Ethics is about what we sacrifice of ourselves to invest in our social groups to gain a higher probability of our own survival and that of our offspring.
Actually, ethics is just the branch of philosophy dealing with questions about morality. What you're talking about is not ethics as a whole, but rather is at best dealing somewhat with descriptive ethics, a very small branch of the field as a whole.
realthinker wrote: We are simply not compelled to sacrifice our own resources for people that do not seem to return the contribution. If those 100 others are in no way in a position to help us and are in no way connected to those who might, it's not an ethical problem. If we turn away from our neighbors and their children and let them die our neighbors will exclude us from their social group. They won't feel compelled to help us. If we turn away from 100 anonymous people across the world from us we're giving away resources that won't likely come back to us if we should need.
Yes, generally this is how people make decisions in practice.
realthinker wrote: It would be unethical to make that contribution.
However, here you're making a value judgment without stating by what particular system of ethics you're doing it by. From the stance of something like Utilitarianism, or varying systems of deontological or virtue ethics, it could be easily seen as unethical NOT to make that contribution. You seem to be making an Appeal to Nature here by describing how things ARE currently done and making the value judgment that is how they should be done.
realthinker wrote: Your question is too simple. What relationship are these 100 people to me? Are they my neighbors? Are they anonymous people across the world? I'd die defending my family and my community. I'd work myself to death to give them a chance to live. But I won't do that for people who offer nothing, or who may even work against my community if given the chance. I'm better off letting them die than to take the chance that those people may have an opportunity to reduce my community's chance to survive.
A) They are fellow human beings.
B) Helping them promotes world cooperation, increasing the chances of them being friendly towards your neighbors, whereas leaving them to die while your neighbors grow even wealthier off you often leads to an attitude of hatred that may eventually lead to extremism and violence against said neighbors.

I think a wonderful presentation on this subject is The Empathic Civilization The basic idea is that as communications technology advances, the world as a whole becomes much more connected and our social groups spread out to include more and more people. Eventually it will likely include the world as a whole.

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Re: Save Yourself or a Hundred Others

Post #20

Post by SomePunk »

ChaosBorders wrote:Medical Treatments in the United States are quite expensive, often running in the thousands of dollars, even for people with insurance. The cost to save a child from dying of Vitamin A deficiency in Africa, however, is roughly $65.

What? I thought it only cost a dollar a day to save a kid in Africa.
ChaosBorders wrote:So if you had the choice of saving yourself for $6500, or the choice of saving a hundred children for the same amount, which would you choose?
I would probably save myself. I have no reason to save anyone else and my life is just as good as any other persons. As a matter of fact if I had the money I wouldn't waste my time saving someone else in some other country. They can save themselves. They are not my responsibility.

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