Can medical triage have an Expectant Category? [Trolley problem type]

The Catholic response to the Trolley Problem is we can’t choose who lives and dies.
Triage Algorithms: Some people are going to die, we can’t not act, we can’t save everyone.

Real world government plan:


What plan would the Faithful Catholic make to determine who gets help and in what order?

The order in which we treat injured people matters. This algorithm is only discussed when dealing with attacks featuring “mass casualty events involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents”. The fact that a situation is mass casualty implies their is more injured people than can be treated in time.

Triage is not acting to make some people die and others live; triage is acting to save as many people as limited time and resources allow.

There is no active killing in any way in triage, only acting to save lives. I don’t see any reason that triage can’t be moral in Catholic thinking. In such triage even “black tags” will be helped if time allows.

Peace and God bless!


Consider The Principle of Double Effect.

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As Ghosty says: triage is not “Who do we save and who do we kill”.
Triage is “Who do we treat first in order to save as many people as we can.”.
This is not a Trolley Problem.


Every one of the so-called “lifeboat scenarios” deals with the question of scarce resources. The “trolley” problem is just a variant of these questions.

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Close, but not exactly accurate. The Catholic position is that we may not do evil (e.g., murder an innocent person) in order that a hoped-for good might result (e.g., five others avoid death).

Different situation entirely. A triage situation is one in which many people are already injured, and you have to decide the order (and the extent to which) you treat them.

Apples and oranges. :wink:

Sure. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot make a moral change about “order”. The trolley problem isn’t about “order”, it’s about whether we actively cause a person (who would not otherwise die) to be killed.

The trolley problem asks a different question: would you put a person who is not otherwise at mortal risk in the path of being killed?

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The actual physical reality of that happening isn’t the point though. It’s a question of moral principle, because what you do comes down to your ethical view, and that can be applied outside of that situation.

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