The Lifeboat Case (Lecture 1 & 2)

[MUSIC] In the summer of 1884,
four English sailors were stranded at sea in a
lifeboat in the south Atlantic, over 1,000 miles from land. Dudley was the captain, Stephens,
the first mate, and Brooks, a sailor. The fourth member of the crew was the
cabin boy, Richard Parker, age 17. The crew had few provisions. For the first three days,
they ate a can of turnips. On the fourth day, they caught a
turtle which sustained them for a time. But soon they had no food, amd
for eight days they ate nothing. By now, Parker– the cabin boy–
was lying in the corner of the boat. He had drunk seawater and become ill. On the 19th day, Dudley– the
captain– suggested drawing lots to determine who would die so
that the others might live. But Brooks refused,
and no lots were drawn. The next day, Dudley decided
that Parker had to be killed. He offered a prayer, told
the boy his time had come, and killed him with a pen knife,
stabbing him in the jugular vein. For four days, the three
remaining crew members fed on the body and the
blood of the cabin boy. Then help came. On the 24th day, a ship
rescued the three survivors. Upon their return to England, they were
arrested and put on trial for murder. Dudley and Stephens confessed that
they had killed and eaten Parker, but they claimed they had
done so out of necessity. Putting aside the question
of law, how do you judge the morality of what they did? Would you say they acted immorally
in killing and eating the cabin boy? Or would you say that,
all things considered, they did the right thing, sacrificing
one life in order to save three? [MUSIC]

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