One More Mountain to Climb? Or Maybe Not.

I heard this on the news and it sorta pissed me off. I can’t believe this is causing an ethical debate.

The story goes like this. People train to climb Mount Everest every year. They know that if they don’t do it just right, there’s a high probability they won’t make it down. Some people can’t make it to the top because the oxygen is too thin and if they did, they would die. There is a specific area on the mountain near the top that is called the death zone. This is because, duh, a lot of people die and are found here. They have reached the top, and die on their way back down. This becomes important later.

This season, among the climbers who reached the top and came back down was the first amputee to reach the top. On his way back down, as he passed through the death zone, he saw a man dying. He was not the only one to see this. But he didn’t stop to help. This is not really horrible. Remember that this is the death zone. If you were low on oxygen, you knew that this was the death zone, and you saw a man dying, would you risk your own life to save him? Honestly? Would you? I don’t think so. You can say you would, but I think you would know that when it came down to it, you would have to face the reality that in the end, if you tried to save him, there would be two climbers dead in the death zone where there once was one.

Now that this guy has come back alive, there’s a whole bunch of climbers bagging on him and the other climbers who saw the dying guy for not saving him. Ok, first of all, how dare they bag on the amputee for not saving someone else? It’s a miracle he got *himself* up the mountain. What do these people want?

Even Sir Edmund Hillary, who sounds like he’s heading for a death zone of his own, was standing up there bellowing, “He’s a human being! How could you leave him up there?” Ok, I don’t know my Sir Edmund Hillary facts well. If he made a point of saving other climbers when he “conquered” Mount Everest, then I’ll eat my words. But I don’t know if, when he was standing up at the top of the mountain, knowing that he only had so long to get down or he would run out of oxygen, he would have saved a dying human being. He may be a human being, but so are the rest of the climbers. They can only do what they can do.

Have you ever heard a firefighter or someone else who’s trained in rescuing people say that if you’re going in there to save someone who’s dying and you don’t know what you’re doing, you could potentially kill yourself too, and then we’re worse off than when there was one guy in danger? That’s common sense. I can’t understand why people even want to make this into an issue. But I guess everyone can philosophize and criticize when they have lots of oxygen to breathe and they’re not in the death zone.

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