Moral question (context: Dr. Who)


I just watched the episode on Doctor Who where, to prevent his companion from dying of overloaded brain (she had absorbed his consciousness and according to the show this is invariably and inevitably fatal), he wiped her memory and ensured that she can never remember him, against her expressed desires. Is this moral vis a vis Catholic teaching? Does ensuring that she lives allow him to “kill” a part of her?


I saw that episode, too. I believe the Doctor did the right thing because Donna wanted to keep the knowledge she’d gained, but doing so would have killed her. When she became the “Doctor-Donna” she must have known she would have to give it up at some point. Merely wanting to hang onto what she’d artificially become wouldn’t be reason enough to let her die. Besides, the Doctor could always enter her life again and let her get to know him from that point on. He just thought it better to let things alone after he’d wiped her memory. She didn’t seem any worse for it and may have gained confidence from her experiences even if she couldn’t remember them. Just my :twocents: :slight_smile:


We don’t need science fiction to ask or answer this question. The Church has always maintained that a person of sound judgement may refuse “excessive” medical attention, even if such attention is required to save his life. The patient may not refuse (and we may not deny) the basic necessities of charity, such as air, food, water, and whatever comfort we can offer, but anything beyond that is not morally obligatory upon either the patient or the medical provider.

Certainly the measures exercised by The Doctor against the patient’s expressed will are far beyond any measures that human doctors have even contemplated. But the moral nature of the situation remains unchanged - we cannot force extreme lifesaving measures upon a patient against his expressed will, decided under sound judgement. If the Doctor was a human medical doctor, he would never practice medicine again - he violated this principle in the most extreme possible manner (which is, of course, actually not possible, being science fiction…)

(the patient can always change his mind at any time, of course.)


Did you see the episode or fully understand what Donna wanted to hang onto? She wasn’t refusing medical treatment; she was wanting to keep what she really had no right to have. In trying to hang onto an expansion of her consciousness that she couldn’t handle, she was not asking to be left alone with an illness, she was asking to be allowed to remain a Time Lord, which she wasn’t and which her mind, spirit and body could not handle. Wiping her memory was the merciful thing to do for the sake of her soul, as well as her body.


I agree with Della, what went on with Donna was not the same thing as a someone just refusing medical treatment. Donna liked the feeling of being a Time Lord, the power, the knowledge, everything about it, so she didn’t want to let go. Only, the Doctor knew better, he knew that what she had gained would be too much for her, so he erased her memory. Agree with Della, it was an act of mercy on the Doctor’s part, not to mention a big sacrifice. After he did it, the Doctor had to face the fact that he had a good friend, a very good friend that he’d had many adventurous with, who did not even know who he was.


No, Dono Nobo drove me crazy, and I quit watching mid-season. My daughter tells me that Dono had a realization at the end, but the Doctor proceeded anyway.

But we can simplify this without invoking Dr. Who - if a patient says, “don’t do this extreme thing,” even at the last moment, and the doctor (ANY doctor) does it anyway, it is morally wrong (and, in the United States, criminally wrong - the doctor can be criminally prosecuted for assault).

If Dono Nobo had never understood what happened to her, and never had any realization before treatment was administered what HAD or WOULD happen, she would be no different than any other medical patient who was the victim of some accident or disease and was unable to express her wishes, and there was no known DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, in which case the medical staff would be obligated to take all appropriate measures to preserve her life.

Which situation applied to THE Doctor? I dunno - I didn’t watch the episode. But there is the Church’s position, either way.


But isn’t this a slippery slope? In other words,if someone for selfish and/or unhealthy reasons (for the body, the mind, the soul, etc.) denies a treatment I judge to be necessary for him/her, my judgement overrules his/hers?
Also (assuming that there is no other way to help Donna), is it morally right for the Doctor to stand by and watch her die just because she refuses what in his mind is the only way to save her?


I really liked Donna, she was my favourite companion and that was a very sad episode.

I agree with Della, she had gained knowledge and mental abilities that her human mind couldn’t handle, and it was going to kill her, or at least destroy her mind. We saw that starting to happen in the episode.

She wasn’t “in her right mind” and so couldn’t make an informed decision about her condition. This actually does happen in reality at times - treatment can be imposed on people if they aren’t able to make rational decisions AND they would harm themselves or die if allowed to continue to refuse treatment.

Bearing in mind that it’s fiction anyway,I think The Doctor made the right choice.


This. (Donna is my favorite companion of the new series… I cried buckets!)

I hate that she never found that guy she was with in “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.” :frowning:


Exactly. Just think of all the mentally ill who are wandering our streets homeless because they are not in their right minds and yet, because of a mistaken sense of “rights” they can’t be committed for their own good. If people are mentally incapacitated it’s up to their loved ones to do the right thing for them. Sadly, in our country its against the law to do so in these cases. Not until they seriously hurt themselves or others can anyone step in. :mad:


I know, me too! It was heartbreaking.

For those who haven’t seen it yet (and this isn’t giving anything away because nothing comes of it), once or twice in later episodes she’s seen on the fringes of a scene and having a sort of tiny flash of a half memory of her time with the Doctor. She doesn’t know what it is or what it means or who/what she’s almost remembering and it passes quickly. She sort of shrugs her shoulders and walks out of the scene but I live in hope that one day she’ll come back into the story somehow.

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