Richard Parker was a 17 years old orphan who gets shipwrecked. He along with 3 more people found themselves in a life boat. Among the survivors was the Captain of the ship. After surviving for 18 days in the sea; the 4 members were extremely hungry. First the Captain proposed that they draw lots to determine a person who would be killed so that the others could eat his meat. However, they could not find consensus for this. So, the elder men made a decision that they would sacrifice Richard Parker; as he was anyway ill as he had had sea water. They killed him with a pen knife and then ate his meat. They 3 survived and were eventually rescued by a ship. When they were brought to England, they were tried in the court. The question is whether the 3 committed murder of Richard Parker and were guilty OR was the act of the three survivors morally justified?
I look at this subject trying to put myself into the situation. The person who was part of the act was also the Captain of the crew. I have also been a leader for some time – good or bad, it for people to judge. However, I have always considered and preached that either we succeed as a team or we perish as a team. For me there is no in between in this aspect. I think this also endorses Utilitarian principle the way I see it. Though I do not agree with Utilitarian principle.
The Captain’s first and only job in the circumstances should have been to get all the 4 of them alive to safety. If any of the 4 died due to natural circumstances, the Captain would have nothing to do as it was an act of God and he could have never been able to veto that. However, the Captain should have tried till his last resource to make sure that all the 4 of them came out of the situation alive. There was no question of the Captain preaching any of his team members about sacrifice or lottery or considering aspects like affection for the families, etc. They were in a tight situation and so the Captain’s focus should have been just the work on hand and nothing beyond that.
Richard Parker was the youngest of the 4 members. So, it was added responsibility on the remaining three to help guide him to make the best decision. Even if Richard Parker would have consented, the other 3 older men should have overruled his thoughts and worked on curing Richard Parker.
The argument that the other 3 had families and Richard Parker had no dependents also does not hold ground for me. This is simply because the other 3 had seen more life and have enjoyed pleasures of life much more than Richard Parker. So, they should have empathized for the fact that if they should work on securing at least one life in this crisis, it should have been that of Richard Parker. Richard Parker had not only possibly had a sad childhood as he was an orphan, he had (most probably) hardly had the opportunity to see any pleasures of life.