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'Dead' Climber's Survival Impugns Mount Everest Ethics

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By bravens99
Words 880
Pages 4
The differences in actions of the potential “rescuers” could be explained by the differences in the two scenarios. In the scenario where the British climber was left to die, there are several reasons why this could have happened. First of all, he was only 1,000 feet below the summit, so the climbers that stumbled upon his dying body could have been more likely to pass by since they were extremely close to their goal and did not want to give up at the very end. It was noted that dozens of different climbers or groups of climbers saw him there and could have helped. This, in my opinion, was a major factor. Since so many climbers saw him, no one felt too much responsibility because they figured someone else would rescue the climber. Sure none of the healthy climbers wanted him to die, but they figured someone else would do the actual rescue. This “diffusion of responsibility” made it easy for each passing climber or group of climbers to not feel ultimately responsible for the man’s death. If asked, each would say “well there were 38 other people that saw him, so don’t blame me. This idea was also displayed in the case of Kitty Genovese being stabbed to death in front of her apartment. Many people saw this attack, but no one called the police probably because they figured someone else already had done so. In the case of the Australian man, Lincoln Hall, he was rescued from a similar situation and managed to survive. Aside from his own team leaving him for dead, I feel the main reason he was rescued was because he was in an isolated area and was lucky to be spotted by one group of climbers, as opposed to dozens of climbers like the British man. This group of climbers that spotted him had no chance to view their responsibility any less than 100% since no other groups were around and would be anytime soon. The entire final responsibility of whether or not this man would live fell on their shoulders. In my opinion, it’s the “diffusion of responsibility” and the ability to “pass the buck” that factors in to whether or not a person steps up and helps out a stranger or not. I feel most people are have good intentions and would not want the responsibility of someone dying or being hurt to be on their conscience. So if it is impossible to diffuse responsibility or pass the buck to someone else, then it seems most people will step up and help a stranger in distress. It seems when there is a possibility of taking the responsibility of something horrible happening to someone off of one’s shoulders, unfortunately it does happen because it easier to spread the guilt over many people, or pass it off to others completely. The story about the Sadhu was a better display of humanity than the case with the British man because, even though there was diffusion of responsibility and passing the buck involved, each team did his part to bring the Sadhu down the mountain as opposed to just watching him die in the snow. Each team felt they did their part as they passed the Sadhu down the hill to another team. They felt that if he died, it was not their fault. Another factor that could have affected the decision of whether or not to help a stranger was if a group was making the decision or if just one or two individuals were making the decision. If a large group was involved, just a couple people in the group could sway the rest of the group to agree with their line of thinking, since it is natural for people to conform to the mainstream line of thinking. In some cases, those that would normally help a stranger in these situations are swayed into not doing so by the rest of the group. On the other side of the coin, there could be one or two “bad-apples” in the group who exert their influence over the rest of the group, using their position of authority for instance, thus forcing the rest of the group into a decision they would not make on their own. Finally, different behavior can simply be explained by one’s values and upbringing. For instance in the Sadhu case, Bowen McCoy formerly of Morgan Stanley, notes that his partner wanted to do everything to help save the Sadhu in compliance with the Christian doctrines of compassion and valuing human life above anything else. McCoy on the other hand had a more utilitarian response: “Do the greatest good for the greatest number.” Basically he means only give enough help to pass the Sadhu on to the next person, and then continue on as previously planned. Overall, humans want to help others and do the right thing, but more so in my opinion they want to do just enough to avoid being pegged wholly responsible for something unfortunate or deadly happening to another person. Thus the phenomenon of diffusion of responsibility and giving just enough effort to pass the buck to another person are what allow humans to continue on without guilty consciences after encountering an ethical dilemma like this.

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