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Matters of life and death

Interest in “trolleyology”—a way of studying moral quandaries—has taken off in recent years. Some philosophers say it sheds useful light on human behaviour, others see it as a pointless pursuit of the unknowable

By David Edmonds   October 2010

The “trolley problem” thought experiment is designed to test our moral intuitions

A shocking memo leaked to Prospect, drafted by civil servants from the treasury and the department of health, exposes the stark reality of future cutbacks. Harsh decisions are inevitable, says the memo; in one NHS trust people on life-support systems are to be “finished off” on 1st November—either by smothering, or by having the plugs pulled out. Their organs are then to be used to save the lives of others on transplant-waiting lists, who have themselves become a considerable burden to the taxpayer. The total saving to the…

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