This is my current thinking on the the circular trolley problem and I also contrast it with the original trolley problem and euthanasia.
In the original trolley case, we act wrongly by throwing the lever because our act directly brings 1 innocent into harm’s way – it lethally targets him (who prior to our act was safe). This assessment is unchanged whether the innocent is killed upon throwing the lever (eg. electrocution) or shortly thereafter (eg. by the moving trolley). Whether the death is ‘contemporaneous’ with the action, follows the action in a microsecond or in 5 seconds does not change the (life-depriving) moral evil inherent in, and introduced by, the act.
In the circular trolley, the act targeting the baby (and mother) is committed by others prior to any act of ours. The proposed act to reverse the direction of the trolley adds/introduces no moral evil (a statement we cannot make re: the original trolley problem) – it does bring forward the death of the baby (and saves the mother). It is difficult to see that there is moral evil in this act given we did not perform an act that introduced threat to the baby.
But is the shortening of the elapsed time till baby’s death unjustifiable in the sense that Euthanasia – being morally evil – is unjustifiable and shortens life (which Ender suggests)? I don’t think it is - in the latter case, the act that kills is our own eg. the giving of a drug. In the circular trolley, there is a time-compression but the life-depriving act pre-existed - we did not introduce it (viz a viz the innocent) as we did in the original trolley.
Imagine the circular trolley with no mother on the track – just the baby – but all other details as Ender specified. Is the evil inherent in the act that sets the trolley in motion any different according to where on the track the baby is placed? I don’t believe so. Is there evil in changing the direction in which the trolley circulates (altering the time of death) – I don’t believe so. These remarks are all in the context of this “unreal” scenario – in the real-world we’d be making arguments that deferring the collision was good because it provides time to effect rescue. That is meaningless in the hypothetical world.