January 09, 2007


Watching E.R. tonight, I was wondering something. Two doctors who had just attended a funeral heard about a shooting at their hospital and some of their colleagues in life-threatening situations. So they decide to cancel their day off and rush to the hospital to help out.

The rest of the show we only see wounded doctors and nurses taken care of by their colleagues. Meanwhile, standard patients are queueing up outside or diverted to other hospitals.

Anyway, that’s not what I was wondering.

I was thinking, suppose you’re capable of saving someone’s life, but you have to chose between the average UK citizen (decide for yourself what this entails) and a brain surgeon. You have no emotional attachment to either patient. Who would you attend first?

My scary thought is that rationally, I cannot find a way to decide to prioritize the average citizen. The even more scary thought was not that the brain surgeon could probably save lives and do great things. No, instead, I thought how much money had been spent on this person to become a brain surgeon in the first place, and how less taxing he (or she) probably is going to be on society.

*sigh* I’m never gonna sleep tonight

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. You might be interested in googling for Godwin’s argument about Archbishop Fenelon and his chambermaid. This page has some good stuff.

    09 Jan 2007, 02:17

  2. Thanks! I might actually print out those pages.

    09 Jan 2007, 13:42

  3. Hayley

    Well. I don’t know what the right answer is. Personally, faced with a bunch of strangers who were brain surgeons or not I would treat the first person I came to, because I don’t believe that anyone is more important than anyone else.

    But if faced with friends who were brain surgeons or strangers who were not or vice versa, I would always treat the friends first because while I do undeniably care about strangers, I simply care more about my friends. Whatever they do. And since the people in ER are friends and colleagues, that seems to be the motivation. Not that doctors are more important but that they care more about them as their friends.

    It’s a bit Orwelian, isn’t it? All people are equal but brain surgeons are more equal than others…

    09 Jan 2007, 14:04

  4. i guess it depends on the level of injury.. good to know how to triage I guess.

    09 Jan 2007, 18:30

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