So. The apocalypse has happened. You and your family—and maybe your friends—have survived the initial apocalyptic event, whatever it happens to be. Now your little group has moved into survival stage. Everyone does what they can to help, to make sure you all make it through the chaos alive.
That’s great, right? Everybody pitches in, and you’ll all live to tell the grandkids what it was like when the world exploded and everybody died (at least until the zombies came knocking).
But what if not everyone in your group can contribute? What if someone’s severely injured, or has a pre-existing debilitating condition like cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or epilepsy? Will that person survive for long? Can that person survive for long?
So what will you do? Will you slow the group so that this person can keep up? Do you tell the group to keep going, but you stay behind to keep an eye on your injured/sick friend? (Risking your own life in the process, of course.) Do you leave the friend behind, forcing them to fend for themselves?
Or do you put that injured or sick friend out of their misery, in as painless and merciful a way as possible?
And if you did, would it be murder, or would it be euthanasia? Would you be helping? Or would you be committing a crime? (Well, committing something considered to be a crime by a society that probably no longer exists.)
The post apocalypse is going to be full of situations that fall into the moral grey area; a lot of things will probably get “fuzzy.” People’s idea of right and wrong may start to get blurry. (Though that may be because they’re delirious with hunger. Who knows.)
Consider the following scenario: You come into the post apocalypse with a friend or family member who has a chronic illness (or maybe you meet up with a group that includes a chronically ill person). Any chronic illness can have a negative impact on your group, but what if it’s something truly debilitating? Take, for example, someone with advanced cancer. If they make it through the apocalypse, chances are, they’re not going to be moving around with ease afterward.
Because of their chronic illness, this person will slow you down. They’ll increase your chances of getting caught by marauding bad guys (or rabid dogs).
So do you take them with you? Do you leave them behind, to be at the mercy of those bad guys? Or—and this may be the best option in some circumstances—do you “put them down” (so to speak)? Maybe break their neck, give them a dose of a fatal drug… In other words, would you do something to make their pain go away—and save them from a terrible fate (like being lunch), which is what would likely happen if they were caught by those marauding bad guys?
Of course, the problem with this is that people tend to have an overriding instinct to live (after all, it’s why you’re considering putting them down in the first place). They may not appreciate your line of thinking. They may fight you. They may make a lot of noise and catch the attention of all those bad guys.
Plus, there’s that whole moral dilemma/serious crime thing.
The above scenario can also apply to someone who’s perfectly healthy during the apocalypse but becomes severely injured at some point during the survival stage. They either can’t move or have a hard time doing so. They’ve also got a gaping hole somewhere on their bodies and are losing a lot of blood (which, of course, will leave a trail for people to follow, which is bad if you don’t want them following you).
So…do you treat them? Do you stay behind with them and help them travel while the rest of the group goes on ahead? Do you leave them there? Or do you put them out of their misery? (This is probably going to happen often, so be prepared for this scenario.)
And if we take this one step further, if you want to “free” the seriously injured and severely ill, what about the very old? Should they be killed as well? After all, they will probably slow you down, and it’s possible that they won’t be able to contribute much to the group. There’s a high likelihood that they’ll leave your group more vulnerable to attackers and other bad guys.
My husband says this is easy—it’s euthanasia if the person asks you to kill them; it’s murder if they don’t. I disagree; I think that’s a little too simplistic. It’s impossible for us to say right now what living conditions will be like post apocalypse. Therefore, I think it’s also impossible for us to say right now what kind of decisions people will have to make, and what kind of conditions in which they’ll have to make them.
I think people will do whatever they can—and whatever’s necessary—to survive. And if someone thinks you’re slowing them down or making the group more vulnerable (or are just too much of an asshat), then a sense of self-preservation will take over. And then you’ll probably have to start watching your back.
Obviously, I’m not talking about ritualistic killing or human sacrifice here. I’m talking about those grey areas that aren’t always easy to figure out. For example, what if someone agrees to die, but then screams no and starts fighting you in those final moments? Do you still kill them? Do you stop? And if you kill them, does that make it murder, because they changed their mind at the last minute?
How do you decide?