Thursday, April 14, 2005

Choose One: Your Knee or a Stranger's Life

Imagine that you have $20,000 in savings. You also have a damaged knee that forces you to walk with a limp, makes it difficult for you to climb stairs, and prevents you from engaging in any sport or athletic activity that requires mobility. There are two and only two ways in which you can spend your savings. The first is to have knee surgery that would restore your knee to full, normal functioning. The second is to donate your savings to a charitable organization. The organization supports destitute people, and your donation would enable it to save the life of one person who would otherwise starve to death.

Must you, as a matter of justice, donate your savings to save another person’s life?

This is one of the choices for my last paper in a class I'm taking. I think it's a really hard question (hence I am not choosing to write on it). Today, one of the girls in my class basically said that she thinks no one in his right mind would donate the money. Of course, she said, you worry about your own comfort over the life of someone else.

Now, I don't know what I would answer to the question, and I certainly don't know what I would do were I in the situation. (Though some would argue that if the average Columbia student donated his tuition money, he could probably save a life or two.) But I would like to say that it wouldn't be quite so obvious to me, that life - even someone else's - is more important than comfort, and that I at the very least recognize the moral dilemma involved.

But maybe this question makes it too easy. The question frames an issue that could come up every day if we cared enough to think about it: how much money do we spend on things that are not really necessary? How much money could we really donate to help save people's lives? Do you really need to buy the name-brand toilet paper? Is your new pair of shabbos shoes worth someone's life?

And where do we draw that line?


At 4/19/05, 5:47 AM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


I am sorry for not referring to this when I posted - I may have read it and it could've triggered off a thought process in my mind. Please accept apologies.


At 4/19/05, 6:24 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

TRK, not to worry - I think it's an interesting question no matter who poses it.


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