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Is It Immoral To Kill a Zombie?

Perhaps it's time to add ethics to your zombie preparedness training

smithsonian.com

Let’s say you’re faced with a zombie. (It is Halloween, after all.) You can run away, or you can kill the zombie. What is the right choice, morally?

Pete Etchells at the Guardian ponders the question:

The monster in front of you was once a living, breathing person with hopes, fears and dreams. Do they still have those memories? Presumably, becoming a zombie involves some sort of widespread, systematic brain damage in which baser survival instincts take over, and motor and language areas are damaged, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the zombie doesn’t remember.

Over at Pop Bioethics, Kyle Munkittrick follows a different line of thinking. He wants to know the state of the infection and the possibility of recovery or cure:

The resolution is that for those who know they are infected, an honest discussion about how they wish to die before infection sets in is had. Mourning, goodbyes and choice of euthanasia are allowed as the situation permits (we are presuming an ideal here, not under constant assault by a shuffling hoard). In this instance, the amount of pain likely caused by transition makes “letting die” an immoral and impermissible decision, thus “active killing” becomes the moral action.

But ask someone from the CDC about zombie killing—as io9 did last year—you get a surprising answer: never kill the zombie.

No, I can think of no scenario where that recommendation would be employed, breaking the cycle of transmission is key and if we look at SARS, H1N1 we see pandemics that public health battled one without a vax and one where a vax was developed later using public health techniques of quarantine, isolation, changing behaviors (more washing of hands, social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, etc).

We would never wish such a moral and scientific quandary upon you—but perhaps it is time to add ethics to your zombie-preparedness training.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Curious World of Zombie Science
Zombie Caterpillar

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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