Responsibility for Another's Medical Emergencies
Q&A Radio: Sunday, 1 December 2013, Question 3
I answered a question on responsibility for another's medical emergencies on Philosophy in Action Radio on 1 December 2013. You can listen to or download the podcast segment below – or check out the whole episode.
Is it wrong to walk away from a person who suffers from repeated medical emergencies due to their own irresponsibility? Over a year ago, I was the tenant of a type-1 diabetic who refused to eat properly. As a result, I regularly had to call the ambulance for her, as she would allow her blood-sugar to drop to dangerous levels, such that she couldn't think or move for herself. She never learned anything from these experiences. She never put emergency food within reach, for example. So a few days or weeks later, I would have to call the ambulance again. I believe that I was being forced – literally – to take care of her. I feared that I'd face manslaughter or other criminal charges if I left her alone in that state. Would it have been morally proper for me to leave her in that state without any advance warning? Should that be legally permissible?
My Answer, In Brief: Your roommate is absolutely wrong to be so irresponsible, yet while you are her roommate, you cannot simply ignore her medical emergencies. You might have a "duty to rescue" in criminal and/or tort law, and you do have a moral obligation to render basic assistance. You should do the minimum required – and find a new place to live, pronto!
- Duration: 10:18
- Download: MP3 Segment (3.6 MB)
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About Philosophy in Action Radio
I'm Dr. Diana Hsieh. I'm a philosopher specializing the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer four meaty questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Wednesday evenings, I interview an expert guest about a topic of practical importance.
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