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Day 99 – Q 2.

2. A global epidemic has broken out and the only solution in sight is a drug developed by a group of doctors and scientists. The problem, however, is that the drug is not yet tested. If the standard testing protocol is adhered to, it would take at least a month to get the final approval for human consumption. By that time, the epidemic would have taken millions of lives already. The only possible way to expedite trials is to test the drug directly on human beings. It effectively means replacing animals with humans for trial. Moreover, there would hardly be any volunteer for such trials. Meanwhile, there is an idea floating in the market. Why not choose the convicts of murders and rapes serving life imprisonment for the trials? Even if they die during the trials, it would hardly be a loss to the society and if they survive, their lives would be of some worth for the society after-all. 

What do you think? Should prisoners be forced to undergo the trial? Examine the pros and cons of this decision? If you were to make this decision, what would that be? Substantiate your choice.


The given case study clearly encapsulates the ethical dilemma where lives of humans are weighed against the larger good of society. Means versus ends is one of the most debated topics in ethics especially where issues of human beings survival is concerned. Treating human beings as a means may justify Utilitarianism but leads to violation of human rights and duties. 


In the above situation following Ethical Values arise –

  • Violation of Human Rights
  • Beneficence of Scientist.
  • Efficiency, Compassion, Conscience, Emotional Intelligence of Decision Makers.
  • Means vs ends
  • Maximum good of maximum population

This is a classic situation of ethical dilemma where,

  • On one hand many people can die if decision is not being made quickly and
  • On other hand if people irrespective of their background they are-forced into danger then it puts doubt on our conscience.
  • Critical situations may demand extreme measures and in the following case an epidemic broke out which is threatening the lives of people. The only option is to test it on humans but it may violate rights of humans and may amount to torture. However, if they volunteer then it can be tested.

Should prisoners be forced to undergo the trial?

No, prisoners should not be forced to undergo the trial because as human being they also have basic human rights regardless of their past actions. As well as if we force them to do knowing the consequences then there will be no difference in them and us. Testing without their will may lead to violation of Human Rights. They should not be forced to undergo trial as it may amount to torture.

The decision is examined in the following part:


  • Convicts are on the death sentence; hence they might have last chance to do good for society as a penance for their crimes.
  • There would be no real damage to life since the convicts are already on death row.
  • Precious lives of brave-heart volunteers for trials can be saved.
  • Lives of innocent animals can be saved


  • It would set wrong precedence in future because there is difference in punishment and torture.
  • It would be against the principle of basic human rights declared in Universal Human Rights Declaration.
  • This is an irreversible decision where a human life would be forced into danger for the sake of greater good.
  • It is treating human beings as a means and thus sacrificing human ethical principles.

If I have to make decision, then I would have made decision of not forcing convicts to do drug trials. This is because of the following reasons.

  • As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. What would be the saved world like after forced drug trials made on convicts. Would humanity be the same? No, it wouldn’t because we would have sacrificed humanity for sake of saving human lives.
  • Can we justify our decision in the number of lives saved? No, we can’t. Because if all policy decisions are based on greater good then it would mean we have done lesser evil. And there is nothing like lesser evil. An evil act is an evil act so there can’t be less or more evil acts.

Hence, I would have first asked the infected people to volunteer for the drug trials and if that not possible then I would have asked all the non-infected people including the prisoners and convicts, if they want to volunteer. Ultimately the faith in humanity that will show us the way to save it and not its sacrifice.


If we force others in danger for our own survival then what is the difference in them and us. Human history is the evidence that whenever such situation aroused in past the collective compassion and Beneficence of researchers that prevailed and curbed the epidemic and not forced violent measures.

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