Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A triage question: Would you give medical treatment to a Cylon?

For the uninitiated, here’s the story of “Battlestar Galactica,” standing on one foot.

The Cylon robots have not only become sentient, they have also evolved—in addition to the standard “toaster” (metallic) model, twelve humanoid models—so similar in appearance to humans that not even a surgeon could tell the difference—now exist, with numerous copies of each model. The so-called “skins” are, for all practical purposes, immortal—when a “skin” dies, his/her body is returned to a “resurrection ship,” where his/her memories are downloaded into an identical body, a process that takes only a few hours.

On one of this past fall’s episodes, the show’s doctor was seen emerging from what appeared to have been surgery on a “skin.” This prompted my question: If you were (or are) a medical professional, would you treat a “skin,” knowing that the Cylons are out to either wipe out or enslave—they don’t see to have made up their minds—the remainder of the human race?

Reasons to oppose treating a Cylon

1. They’re trying to kill us. Why should we? (Giving credit where it’s due, [or “props,” as some currently say,] this issue was dealt with quite a while back by M.A.S.H.)

2. Why should we waste resources and staff on a being who can come back to life in a few hours anyway?

Reasons in favor of treating a Cylon

1. “First, do no harm.” Caring for the ill and/or injured is what medical professionals do, which is pretty much what the show’s doctor said. The ethics of medical care do not distinguish between our guys and the other guys.

2. Don’t create any more enemies, or enmity, than you already have. When the resistance leaves a wounded Cylon “skin” out in the hot sun to die a long and agonizing death, he becomes even more hostile than he was already.

The floor is open.


Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

2. Don’t create any more enemies, or enmity, than you already have. When the resistance leaves a wounded Cylon “skin” out in the hot sun to die a long and agonizing death, he becomes even more hostile than he was already.

Wouldn't that depend on leaving the Cylon 'skin' to be picked up and uploaded?

Tue Jan 16, 10:05:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Possibly, but I imagine that the team of resistance fighters who'd rescued the condemned humans from a mass execution had to leave the scene of the rescue as quickly as possible, taking the ex-prisoners with them, and didn't have time to bury the "skin."

Tue Jan 16, 10:44:00 PM 2007  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I think if you want to know what Jewish doctors would do, you can just look at Israel, because the paradigm for this situation has been in place there for some time.

Everytime there is a suicide bombing, they run a story about the local hospital where the Jewish doctors are treating Jewish victims and Arab perpetrators on the same wards.

Now, I'd like to think that I would be as altruistic, but I don't think any of us really knows until we're G-d forbid thrust into such a situation.

Wed Jan 17, 07:27:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Mark/PT, you make two good points--this is what Jewish doctors are already known to do, but I'd have to be in such a situation to know whether I'd do the same. Good call, Doc. May you never be in such a situation.

Wed Jan 17, 08:08:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Noam S said...

R. Gil at Hirhurim posted on the lasted edition of the journal of Jewish thought, Tradition. It focuses on Jewish attitudes towards war.(My copy is still in it's clear plastic wrapper). One of the discussions is on the elimination of the people of Amalek. R. Carmy(the editor, in his epilogue) opines that this is one commandment that one has to say "God said it, we have to do it" and that it is not one of the rationalizable ones. There is a bunch of interesting discussion afterwards. I think the key is certainty. If one is certain that one's enemy is always going to try to kill you, no matter what you do for him(save his life, help him, etc.) then you have no obligation to help him. In fact, he is considered so evil that he is amalek, even though he may not be from the tribe. On the other hand, if there is a possiblilty that his hatred is not inplacable, then one is obliged to help him, and Mark's example of treated the bombers is an excellent example. So, the question is, do Cylon's have the capacity not to hate humans and to coexist? If they do, then you have to help them. If you are certain they dont, you have a religious obligation to kill them. If Hitler or Stalin had a heart attack in front of me, I would certainly not do CPR, or even a Heimlich.

Wed Jan 17, 09:49:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ouch. Then I guess the question would be, "How could you be certain?"

From what we've seen, some of the Cylon "skins" are interested in co-existence. One of them has even switched sides, working as a pilot in the human military, and is now married to a human who knows that she's a "skin." Therefore, by that rule, one would be obligated to treat a "skin."

Wed Jan 17, 10:51:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shira: Here's something to ponder. I have multiple hobbies that keep me busy (besides my beloved blog).

One of them, is being an active member of our yishuv's counter-terror unit -- and we are part of the IDF. Our training states that in case of a terrorist infiltration, we need to shoot to kill, and then ensure the terrorist is 100% dead.

That's when my second hobby comes in. I'm an EMT. Only after a situation is safe, am I allowed to provide any medical assistance (since safety is the #1 rule in Magen David Adom). Therefore, to ensure "safety" I must first "neutralize" the terrorist according to IDF protocol. Once IDF protocol has deemed the situation "safe"...I have to start CPR on the terrorist.

Rather bizarre, don't you think?

Wed Jan 24, 11:14:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Jameel, that is seriously weird.

Wed Jan 24, 10:04:00 PM 2007  

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