Shipwreck and the double effect

There is a shipwreck.
Although there is a raft, there are too many people for the raft to save them all. The raft is full and anymore people on it would sink it. However, there are many people who are trying to get on to the raft. What is moral?
May those on the raft push those trying to get on off?
May those on the raft bash in the heads of those who are trying to get on?
May those who are trying to get onto the raft pull someone else off or bash someone in the head to take their place?
I would like opinions on this dilemma.
Does this qualify for double-effect?

That is certainly a very difficult situation, and I would say that it certainly would qualify as a “double-effect” scenario, in that any action would have both good an negative effects at the same time. The question ultimately comes down to this: Do I have the right to defend my life in a situation like this?

If you are in a full life boat, and the onslaught of people would certainly endanger the lives of those already on the raft, then you would have the right, or to some even the obligation, to preserve the lives of those who have already been saved. It would not be murder, since your intention is to save the lives of those in the boat, and not condemning those in the water to die.

It is similar to the situation of a pregnant woman with cancer, and the treatment to save her life would cost the life of her child. She could morally receive the treatment, even though the unborn child may die. It would be morally acceptable to do so since the intention is to save her life, not killing her child. This is another example of a “double-effect” situation.

Making either of these choices is never easy, but there is a morally sound choice that may be made in both, even though there is unintended evil as a result. Hence the “double-effect”.

In Carmel,

Br. Allen

That’s why I fly…:smiley:

What would Jesus do???

He gave HIS life to save yours…do the same.:shrug:

I agree but that doesn’t answer the question.
You have double effect here but exactly how much of a double effect? Can you pull another off or use mortal force?

You may not push or bash someone on the head.
The Church teaches the end does NOT justify the means so you cannot do an evil to achieve a good.

Find another way.

The boat could move away from the crowd to avoid panic and too many sinking the boat, then ask those swimming to hold.

Then, make an agreement that people can rest in the boat for a time, then swim behind the boat for a while. Take turns in helping each other and work together.

A just world is one where everyone chooses to do the right thing.

Without reading the other posts, I would have to guess that the moral thing to do would be give up your seat on the raft to another, preferably younger person, or a parent of young children.
Those whom have the most others depending upon them should be given first place on the raft. If you are a mother of five young children, God would probably understand if you bashed some 50 year old drunk guy (with no, or grown children) in the head who was trying to throw you overboard!


Do you ALWAYS have to ruin a good dilemma with logic?



Seriously though, care probably needs to come before logic. I want them all to live.(that is my care). How do I achieve that?

…the brain then starts to kick in.


Women and children first, then the men settle their claims to the remaining seats like civilized people – rock paper scissors! :smiley:

In a situation like this, I do not believe a person is morally obligated to give up their seat to another. That would, however, be a courageous thing to do.

It would not be morally permissible to use violence to eject a person from the boat. If the boat is in imminent peril of swamping due to people trying to get on an already overloaded craft, it may be morally permissible to prevent others from getting in or perhaps even to ask for volunteers to leave the craft.

Keep in mind that it is morally permissible to use force, even deadly force in order to defend your life or the lives of others. But that is something that should be avoided to greatest extent as possible in this situation.

The most ethical course of action to take is Demeedna suggestion. And do not ignore TLM08’s observation. in response to it. Using logic and coolly examining the situation would minimize panic of all concerned and, therefore, maximize the chance of survival for the greatest number of people. I also like the rock-paper-scissors idea. That also can help reduce panic.

No one has discussed what should be done for those who may have serious or even grave injuries. As for as I am concerned, there is a truism that I would adapt to this case. A person can be best judged by how he treats the weakest and most vulnerable people around him.

We are required to love our neighbor as ourselves, although not MORE than ourselves. If we are already on the raft, and any additional people would definitely sink the raft or push us off, we may prevent others from getting on the raft.

We are allowed to defend ourselves, so if someone else tries to push us off, we can fight back. We are defending ourselves against an aggressor, even though the aggressor is attacking us to preserve his or her own life.

No, because the person sitting on the raft is not attacking the person who is not on the raft. Those who are not on the raft are in danger from the water, not because of attack by the people on the raft. Therefore, self defense cannot be used to justify any attack on the people who are already on the raft. Double effect would not apply here because to attack a non-aggressor is intrinsically evil.

I suspect someone here just finished watching Titanic. :popcorn:

The moral and correct answer is to trust in God’s providence and place your life in His. You cannot justify taking someone else’s life or denying them the charity of a place on board the raft simply because you are afraid that God isn’t big enough to handle this situation. As a Christian, you must serve the needs of others. If it comes down to it, we should be willing to give up our own place on the raft in order that someone else may live.

The scenario that I proposed was meant to explore the idea of double effect. I am trying to explain that to someone without mentioning pregnancy. I thought the raft would make them more personally involved. Thanks for everyones input it has clarified somethings for me.

yeah, the real problems start when the fresh water and meat problems start coming anyway.


Wrong. It’s “Rock-Paper-Scissors-Spock-Lizard”.

The suggestion offered by Brandy immediately brought St. Kolbe to mind. Adrift, if you have not read about St. Kolbe I can recommend the book: Kolbe: Saint of the Immaculate.

Here is a website link:

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