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Is it okay to lie to someone to save their life?

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Hayteria
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Is it okay to lie to someone to save their life?

Postby Hayteria » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:12 pm

Last night there was an interesting episode of "House" (I'm not particularly into that show... at least not yet... but I did recognize the character when flicking through channels) which I think was called "Unwritten."

It was about a patient who wants to kill herself because she considers it her own fault that her son died in a car accident. In order to talk her out of killing herself and into accepting an operation that would save her life, House tells said patient that her son died of a brain aneurysm, and that this would have happened with or without the car accident. Basically, the idea is that the truth would have led her to kill herself, whereas a lie kept her alive. House's boss, disappointed that House would lie to a patient even though that patient would have otherwise killed herself, tries to talk House into telling the truth instead, but even when he's about to, he changes his mind at the last second.


Now, when it comes to the issue of lying to one to save the life of another, an often-cited "extreme" example of circumstance that justifies lying would be for if a Nazi officer was coming to your home and asking if you were hiding Jews... it's generally regarded as a sufficient justification for lying, and I agree; saving the lives of innocents is easily worth lying to someone, especially if it's someone who obviously deserves to be lied to. At worst it's a violation of the principle of honesty, but I think saving innocent lives justifies it.

With lying to save someone from themselves, however, we're dealing with a somewhat different issue. I still think it's justified even then, (or at least in the kind of circumstances portrayed in said "House" episode) but at the same time I could easily imagine almost-convincing counterarguments... such as the idea that if the truth leads someone to suicide, and it takes a lie to talk them out of it, then they ought to go where the truth takes them. Personally, though, I'd consider that a little TOO truth-centric an approach.

This isn't necessarily the only reason, of course, it's just an example of a reason in the opposite direction from what I'm otherwise inclined to think; that even lying is justified if it's in the name of trying to convince someone not to end their own life.

What do you think?
Last edited by Hayteria on Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Lackadaisical2
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Postby Lackadaisical2 » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:14 pm

I don't believe in saving people from themselves, so I wouldn't lie to them to stop 'em from committing suicide.
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Postby Norstal » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:18 pm

No. Lying always bites one's ass later in life.
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Postby UCUMAY » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:19 pm

I would have lied to save jews. I wouldn't lie to keep someone from seeing the scope of their life. I personally say enable suicide and donate their organs. Just my humble opinion.
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Hayteria
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Postby Hayteria » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:20 pm

Norstal wrote:No. Lying always bites one's ass later in life.

The ass of the one being lied to or of the one doing the lying? If the former, would that make dying the better alternative for them, and if the latter, how severely would it have to bite THEM in the ass for it to not be worth it for having saved someone's life?

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Postby FREEaquaticdancelesson » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:22 pm

It depends on if the person deserves to live or not.
If they do, then yes.
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Postby Jello Biafra » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:23 pm

Yes. Suicidal impulses are often temporary. They can be told the truth when they're over it.

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Postby Norstal » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:25 pm

Hayteria wrote:
Norstal wrote:No. Lying always bites one's ass later in life.

The ass of the one being lied to or of the one doing the lying? If the former, would that make dying the better alternative for them, and if the latter, how severely would it have to bite THEM in the ass for it to not be worth it for having saved someone's life?

Depends on the situation. Could be both, could be just one of the two subjects. Like Lacky said, House's objective was to save the patient from suicide. It could be done by telling the truth or lying, its true, but lying is just a temporary fix. Sooner or later, perhaps never, the patient will find out about the lie.
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Postby Zilam » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:26 pm

In the case of the House episode, I would lie, and then prod them into getting the help they needed to deal with the grief of that loss.
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Postby Nullivan » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:33 pm

FREEaquaticdancelesson wrote:It depends on if the person deserves to live or not.
If they do, then yes.

Who are you, hell, who is anyone, to decide who "deserves" to live?


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Postby Greed and Death » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:35 pm

One time thing then Yes.
Something I would have to keep up forever with them then no.
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Postby Norstal » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:35 pm

FREEaquaticdancelesson wrote:It depends on if the person deserves to live or not.
If they do, then yes.

That is egotistical on so many level.
Its like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, except theres one 1 degree and its your ego.
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Postby New York - New Jersey » Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:52 pm

It's part of my job to lie to people to save them from themselves, I'm an EMT. I have had my fare share of losers who might as well off themselves but I have to convince them they have something to live for. It's particularly hard when you know the person is an asshole that say beats his girlfriend or wife and in a moment of depression tried to OD and rid the world of his sorry ass but I have to revive him and try to convince him he has something to live for.

It's not a job for the mentally or emotionally weak and I feel much better lying to good people who are going to die but want to live than losers like the above mentioned.
Last edited by New York - New Jersey on Tue Dec 28, 2010 2:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Greed and Death » Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:14 pm

Norstal wrote:
FREEaquaticdancelesson wrote:It depends on if the person deserves to live or not.
If they do, then yes.

That is egotistical on so many level.
Its like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, except theres one 1 degree and its your ego.

and that is how people should function.
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Postby Angleter » Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:59 pm

I've seen this episode (well, I think so- but House does this a lot), and yes. I've always thought that to prefer death to life-saving treatment suggests you're not all there.
Last edited by Angleter on Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Gagatron » Tue Dec 28, 2010 4:01 pm

No lies required. The truth can be as sweet as honey.
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Postby Iron Chariots » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:39 pm

Gagatron wrote:No lies required. The truth can be as sweet as honey.

That's a very optimistic view.
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Postby Georgism » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:42 pm

I don't think lies are all that bad to begin with *shrug*
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Postby Georgism » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:47 pm

Gagatron wrote:No lies required. The truth can be as sweet as honey.

It can be. Usually isn't though.
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Postby Coccygia » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:51 pm

Hayteria wrote:Now, when it comes to the issue of lying to one to save the life of another, an often-cited "extreme" example of circumstance that justifies lying would be for if a Nazi officer was coming to your home and asking if you were hiding Jews... it's generally regarded as a sufficient justification for lying, and I agree; saving the lives of innocents is easily worth lying to someone, especially if it's someone who obviously deserves to be lied to. At worst it's a violation of the principle of honesty, but I think saving innocent lives justifies it.

This reminds me of a possibly apocryphal story about a performance of The Diary of Anne Frank in which the lead actress was so dreadfully bad that when the Nazis showed up to search the house, people in the audience started yelling, "She's in the attic!"

As to the main pint, however...WTF? Lying is the worst thing in the world? As House himself might say, "Truth is overrated." We lie all the time and a lot of it is OK; white lies, gray lies...so what's the big deal about lying to save someone's life? If you're dead, truth, lies, what difference does is it gonna make to you? I'm with House on this one. (I'm with House on most of 'em, actually.)

BTW the woman in this case was (like nearly everybody on House except House) an idiot. >:(
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Postby Sibirsky » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:57 pm

Jello Biafra wrote:Yes. Suicidal impulses are often temporary. They can be told the truth when they're over it.

:shock:

I agree with Jello Biafra.
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Postby Sibirsky » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:01 pm

There are many examples of "good" lies. For example lying to the police to get out of trouble, lying on your tax return to pay less in taxes, lying to your girlfriend about cheating on her with her best friend, lying to your girlfriend about her hair looks so not to disappoint her, lying to her about how her dress looks, lying to save someone's life.
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Postby SaintB » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:01 pm

Lying to save another's life is just dandy. Its more honest to lie and save a life than to tell the truth and let someone die.
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Postby Sibirsky » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:02 pm

New York - New Jersey wrote:It's part of my job to lie to people to save them from themselves, I'm an EMT. I have had my fare share of losers who might as well off themselves but I have to convince them they have something to live for. It's particularly hard when you know the person is an asshole that say beats his girlfriend or wife and in a moment of depression tried to OD and rid the world of his sorry ass but I have to revive him and try to convince him he has something to live for.

It's not a job for the mentally or emotionally weak and I feel much better lying to good people who are going to die but want to live than losers like the above mentioned.

Sounds like a difficult and demanding job.
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Postby Lackadaisical2 » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:02 pm

SaintB wrote:Lying to save another's life is just dandy. Its more honest to lie and save a life than to tell the truth and let someone die.

...hows that 'more honest' exactly?
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