Here’s a twist on a classic ethics thought-experiment.
You are high on a hill with a high-powered rifle and scope and you know you never miss (you are an ex-navy sniper say), even with a moving target. Down below on a train trestle you see a scene of horror unfolding. Three teenage girls you don’t know have climbed onto the trestle. To get there they must have climbed over a fence marked with ‘danger’ warnings. They have clearly broken several trespassing laws. A train is coming around a bend and it will kill all three teenagers. You know this. Furthermore, you can see the engineer is Sally, who you know is 65 years old because you read about her upcoming retirement in the local paper. You know nothing else about her. She is on the other side of the bend and will not see the teenagers until it is too late to brake. You also happen to know that Sally has an active switch that she must squeeze with her hand to keep the train from breaking and that if she is incapacitated the train automatically breaks. Should you shoot Sally to save the girls? And making it harder, Would you shoot Sally to save the girls?
What factors play into your decision to shoot or not?
If the teenagers are hit, it will be an accident they are responsible for causing. Can you murder someone to save three others from an accident they caused?
What other factors might play in your decision if you had additional information? What factors would make you take the shot? What factors would keep you from taking the shot?
What if one of the girls is your daughter?
What if Sally is your daughter?
What if Sally and one of the girls is your daughter?
What if one of the girls is Sally’s daughter (and you know that)?
(And no fair saying you shoot the girls and Sally to get rid of the dilemma).