January 7, 2006 5:09 PM Subscribe
Lifeboat ethics. "Terror had assumed the throne of reason, and passion had become judgment." After the ship William Brown sank on a voyage from England to America in 1841, its longboat with 41 passengers and crew aboard leaked badly and began sinking. To stay afloat, the first mate ordered sailors to throw men and women overboard: those remaining were saved and eventually rescued. One sailor who followed orders, Alexander Holmes, was convicted of manslaughter after he returned to Philadelphia in 1842. This true story inspired a famous fictional case, many legal opinions, two movies, and a recent book. What would you have done in the same life-or-death situation?
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