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    Kill one to save the rest or the trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. It was first introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967, but also extensively analysed by Judith Thomson, Peter Unger, and Frances Kamm as recently as 1996. Outside of the domain of traditional philosophical discussion, the trolley problem has been a significant feature in the fields of cognitive science and, more recently, of neuroethics.

    1. The switch.
    The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:
(1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
(2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?

    A utilitarian view asserts that it is obligatory to steer to the track with one man on it. According to simple utilitarianism, such a decision would be not only permissible, but, morally speaking, the better option (the other option being no action at all).
    An alternate viewpoint is that since moral wrongs are already in place in the situation, moving to another track constitutes a participation in the moral wrong, making one partially responsible for the death when otherwise no one would be responsible. An opponent of action may also point to the incommensurability of human lives. Under some interpretations of moral obligation, simply being present in this situation and being able to influence its outcome constitutes an obligation to participate. If this were the case, then deciding to do nothing would be considered an immoral act if one values five lives more than one.

this isn't Johan's work
the fifth spoonful of sugar
all lives were equal to you


    The initial trolley problem becomes more interesting when it is compared to other moral dilemmas.

    2. The fat man.
    As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

    Resistance to this course of action seems strong; most people who approved of sacrificing one to save five in the first case do not approve in the second sort of case. This has led to attempts to find a relevant moral distinction between the two cases.
    One clear distinction is that in the first case, one does not intend harm towards anyone – harming the one is just a side effect of switching the trolley away from the five. However, in the second case, harming the one is an integral part of the plan to save the five. This solution is essentially an application of the doctrine of double effect, which says that you may take action which has bad side effects, but deliberately intending harm (even for good causes) is wrong.

    Act utilitarians deny this. Peter Unger rejects that it can make a substantive moral difference whether you bring the harm to the one or whether you move the one into the path of the harm. Note, however, that rule utilitarians do not have to accept this, and can say that pushing the fat man over the bridge violates a rule to which adherence is necessary for bringing about the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

    3. The fat villian.
    The further development of this example involves the case, where the fat man is, in fact, the villain who put these five people in peril. In this instance, pushing the villain to his death, especially to save five innocent people, seems not only morally justifiable but perhaps even imperative.

    4. The man in the yard.
    As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You can divert its path by colliding another trolley into it, but if you do, both will be derailed and go down a hill, and into a yard where a man is sleeping in a hammock. He would be killed. Should you proceed?

    Responses to this are partly dependent on whether the reader has already encountered the standard trolley problem (since there is a desire to keep one's responses consistent), but Unger notes that people who have not encountered such problems before are quite likely to say that, in this case, the proposed action would be wrong.
    Unger therefore argues that different responses to these sorts of problems are based more on psychology than ethics – in this new case, he says, the only important difference is that the man in the yard does not seem particularly "involved". Unger claims that people therefore believe the man is not "fair game", but says that this lack of involvement in the scenario cannot make a moral difference.

These charts details how people have responded on the three scenarios to date:

  


    5. Transplant.
    Here is an alternative case, due to Judith Jarvis Thomson, containing similar numbers and results, but without a trolley:
    A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveler, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine checkup. In the course of doing the checkup, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Suppose further that if the young man were to disappear, no one would suspect the doctor.



In psychology: The trolley problem has been the subject of many surveys in which approximately 90% of respondents have chosen to kill the one and save the five. If the situation is modified where the one sacrificed for the five was a relative or romantic partner, respondents are much less likely to be willing to sacrifice their life.

In 2012, participants made their choices while wearing a head mounted display device that displayed virtual avatars of the trolley victims, and gave a real time simulation of the approaching vehicle. As the vehicle approached, the virtual avatars in the path would begin to scream until impact. Subjects who were more emotionally aroused during the test were less likely to kill the one.