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When Is It Okay to Kill a Zombie? (The Ethics of Zombie Killing)
IO9 ^ | February 11, 2012 | Lauren Davis

Posted on 02/12/2012 9:20:07 AM PST by DogByte6RER

When is it okay to kill a zombie?

Photobucket

The Walking Dead returns tomorrow night in the wake of a moral dilemma: Should zombies be killed on sight, or quarantined as sick humans? We look at some of the issues surrounding zombie murder, and want to hear what you think about the ethics of killing these infection-spreading cannibals.

We open at the beginning of the zombie pandemic. There are rumblings of an infection on the news, of people who have turned suddenly violent and spreading disease through their bites. You look out the window and see a bloody-mouthed being shuffling in the distance. Maybe it's an undead creature. Maybe it's a live person infected with a horrible illness, à la 28 Days Later. Would you rush out to kill it? What would you need to know about the figure in order to decide it's okay to kill?

Since the CDC has already put out a pamphlet on zombie preparedness, we asked CDC spokesman David Daigle whether the government agency would ever recommend killing a zombie. The answer was a resolute no:

No, I can think of no scenario where that recommendation would be employed, breaking the cycle of transmission is key and if we look at SARS, H1N1 we see pandemics that public health battled one without a vax and one where a vax was developed later using public health techniques of quarantine, isolation, changing behaviors (more washing of hands, social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, etc).

Instead, if an individual encounters a zombie in the wild, the CDC recommends quarantine:

We have seen scenarios where patients could not be isolated in a Health Care Facility (facility not in proximity or facility not able to handle additional isolation cases, or family wished to isolate at home). In this scenario the public health team might provide recommendations for care and personal protective equipment (PPE) mask, gloves, etc to protect those providing the care. I was in Angola for a Marburg response and this was often the case where the WHO team helped by providing PPE and showing family members who served as care-givers (and we like to keep this to one person) how to don and care for the patient to protect themselves and prevent further transmission.

Of course, just because the CDC doesn't want us to run out with chainsaws in hand doesn't mean it's necessarily unethical. We turned to Kyle Munkittrick of Pop Bioethics for a more philosophical take on zombie killing. Munkittrick offered a lengthy and lucid analysis on the ethical issues that surround zombie eradication, and I hope he'll post the entire thing on his website soon. (Edit: It's up now. Go read it. Then come back here.) Munkittrick addresses whether or not killing an undead creature would constitute the desecration of a human body, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that zombiism is itself a violation of human dignity, since the human body has been transformed into a violent, shambling mockery of its former form. But even if we're talking about living rage zombies, killing them may still be a moral imperative:

It is possible that the 28 Days Later rage zombies actually exist in this category, in that they are not "dead" per se, but reduced to madness....[I]t is ethically permissible to terminate anyone infected with rage because of 1) the extremely high potential for harm to others 2) the strong possibility of current harm to the individual (presuming a nugget of preserved consciousness likely experiencing nothing but pain and fear) 3) and the fact that involuntary rage behavior violates [their dignity as a human being].

Even if zombiism happened to be reversible, that wouldn't mean that we wouldn't need to kill the infected under certain conditions:

The potential for recovering consciousness: If zombification is irreversible and incurable, the potential is zero and this point is moot. If zombification is preventable only through vaccination, the potential once infected zero. Considering stage 2 of infection [when an infected person is transitioning through death but is not yet dead/zombified], however, whether that is in the process of transition or in a non-morbid form of zombification like rage, there seems the potential for a cure. Presumption of destroying the micro-organism does not guarantee or even create a likelihood of a return to former consciousness undamaged. Based on the degradation of behavior and the nature of zombification (either reanimative or rage) a baseline assumption of severe brain-damage seems reasonable. The diseases effectively necessitate demolition of the pre-frontal cortex and all brain function outside of vulgar sensation for food-seeking and cerebellar activity necessary locomotion. There is also the real chance that the disease constructs temporary ad-hoc networks to overcome the colossal damage to the original brain function. Terminate the disease, the networks collapse and the zombie deanimates or the rage fades and the body is left in a persistent vegetative state.

Thus, the resolution is that, should a cure become available, it comes with the presumption that active killing may still be necessary to prevent further suffering. Delivering the cure during the transition of an individual may result in recovery with none, minor, significant, severe, or mortal brain damage. Based on the individual and the decisions of trusted surrogates, it may be necessary to euthanize anyone with significant or worse brain damage. To persist in such a state is undignified and violates [the dignity of the human body].

He also gets a bit into zombie end-of-life issues:

The resolution is that for those who know they are infected, an honest discussion about how they wish to die before infection sets in is had. Mourning, goodbyes and choice of euthanasia are allowed as the situation permits (we are presuming an ideal here, not under constant assault by a shuffling hoard). In this instance, the amount of pain likely caused by transition makes "letting die" an immoral and impermissible decision, thus "active killing" becomes the moral action.

For those who are infected and in transition to the point of having lost lucidity, the moral action is immediate death. Whether you are considering the later possible harms of the zombie, the current harms of pain to the individual, or the dignity of the person being robbed by the transition, the lack of reasonable thought means that person's protests and pleading are to be ignored. All thought is now the result of infection madness, through a haze of blinding pain, or the manifestation of the zombie micro-organism's self-preservation function and are not to be considered in the way the pleading of a lucid person would be.

I rather like this part, and it's now part of my zombie preparedness plan. In the event of zombie pandemic, you and your loved ones should draw up a living dead will.

One other element I'd like to throw out there: Under what conditions might we consider zombies a separate species, worthy of their own survival? We tend to prioritize human life, and you can bet that I'd aim for the brains if a zombie ever came after me. But I can't help but think of the infected in Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, who want to survive as much as we do, even if they aren't human any longer.

So where do you fall? What would you have to know about zombies before you'd decide to kill one? Should all zombies be eradicated on sight?

Big thanks to David Daigle and Kyle Munkittrick for their help on this.


TOPICS: Chit/Chat; Health/Medicine; Miscellaneous; Science; Society; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: bioethics; cdc; itstheendoftheworld; undead; zday; zombie; zombieapocalypse; zombies
Zombies Q: "When Is It Okay to Kill a Zombie?" A: When they come after my wallet!
1 posted on 02/12/2012 9:20:08 AM PST by DogByte6RER
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The Ethics of Zombie Killing

http://www.popbioethics.com/2012/02/the-ethics-of-zombie-killing/


2 posted on 02/12/2012 9:20:56 AM PST by DogByte6RER ("Loose lips sink ships")
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To: Slings and Arrows

More fun zombie stuff ... ping


3 posted on 02/12/2012 9:23:14 AM PST by DogByte6RER ("Loose lips sink ships")
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To: DogByte6RER

28 Days later zombies were rage zombies and there’s a big difference between the shufflers and runners.


4 posted on 02/12/2012 9:29:59 AM PST by cripplecreek (What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?)
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To: DogByte6RER

What kind of zombie are we talking about? A `Shaun of the Dead’ lumbering, slow zombie, or a `Dawn of the Dead’ nimble, fast zombie?
I think the exigencies posed by the latter type require a “The only good zombie is a dead zombie” approach while the former might be herded, culled and made into productive citizens, e.g. community organizers, fast food workers and lawyers, assuming they are chained and fitted with electronic neck shock-collars.


5 posted on 02/12/2012 9:31:11 AM PST by tumblindice (To Be Or Not To Be, uugggghhhhhhhhh)
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To: DogByte6RER

6 posted on 02/12/2012 9:31:24 AM PST by Daffynition (Our forefathers would be shooting by now.)
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To: DogByte6RER

Yes, one should avoid being detected by zombies, but once detected you must kill all in range...and keep moving.


7 posted on 02/12/2012 9:31:34 AM PST by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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To: DogByte6RER

What kind of zombie are we talking about? A `Shaun of the Dead’ lumbering, slow zombie, or a `Dawn of the Dead’ nimble, fast zombie?
I think the exigencies posed by the latter type require a “The only good zombie is a dead zombie” approach while the former might be herded, culled and made into productive citizens, e.g. community organizers, fast food workers and lawyers, assuming they are chained and fitted with electronic neck shock-collars.


8 posted on 02/12/2012 9:31:42 AM PST by tumblindice (To be or not to be, uugggghhhhhhhhh)
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To: DogByte6RER

What kind of zombie are we talking about? A `Shaun of the Dead’ lumbering, slow zombie, or a `Dawn of the Dead’ nimble, fast zombie?
I think the exigencies posed by the latter type require a “The only good zombie is a dead zombie” approach while the former might be herded, culled and made into productive citizens, e.g. community organizers, fast food workers and lawyers, assuming they are chained and fitted with electronic neck shock-collars.


9 posted on 02/12/2012 9:31:48 AM PST by tumblindice (To be or not to be, uugggghhhhhhhhh)
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To: DogByte6RER

What kind of zombie are we talking about? A `Shaun of the Dead’ lumbering, slow zombie, or a `Dawn of the Dead’ nimble, fast zombie?
I think the exigencies posed by the latter type require a “The only good zombie is a dead zombie” approach while the former might be herded, culled and made into productive citizens, e.g. community organizers, fast food workers and lawyers, assuming they are chained and fitted with electronic neck shock-collars.


10 posted on 02/12/2012 9:32:01 AM PST by tumblindice (To be or not to be, uugggghhhhhhhhh)
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Photobucket CDC takes the People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies stance
11 posted on 02/12/2012 9:35:18 AM PST by DogByte6RER ("Loose lips sink ships")
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To: DogByte6RER
Zombies No Brains
12 posted on 02/12/2012 9:36:38 AM PST by null and void (Day 1118 of America's ObamaVacation from reality [Heroes aren't made, Frank, they're cornered...])
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To: DogByte6RER

A couple of things about “The Walking Dead” (FINALLY the midseason begins!)....

1) It’s about time Herschel woke up and faced reality. Capturing zombies with poles? Really? All it takes is one wrong move, and boom, disaster.

2) I know Shane has become a bad apple, and I hate to see him and Rick come to blows, but I sort of hope he doesn’t get killed off, because that boy has some fine muscles.


13 posted on 02/12/2012 9:42:28 AM PST by CatherineofAragon (I can haz Romney's defeat?)
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To: DogByte6RER

I reject the premise. You can not “kill” a zombie, they are already dead. All you can do is stop them, by doing whatever is necessary depending on what kind of zombie they are, I mean really does that even matter except to find the method, they all want to eat your face off.


14 posted on 02/12/2012 9:58:21 AM PST by svcw (Only difference between Romney & BH is one thinks he will be god & other one thinks he already is.)
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To: DogByte6RER


15 posted on 02/12/2012 10:57:10 AM PST by Chode (American Hedonist - *DTOM* -ww- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: svcw

That was my reaction to the title. What the heck, they are already dead...


16 posted on 02/12/2012 11:00:26 AM PST by El Laton Caliente (NRA Life Member & www.Gunsnet.net Moderator)
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To: DogByte6RER
Zombies. They just want a little hope and change. And brains.
17 posted on 02/12/2012 11:08:10 AM PST by HereInTheHeartland (I love how the FR spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "Obama")
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To: DogByte6RER

Double tap...’nuff said.


18 posted on 02/12/2012 11:11:25 AM PST by DouglasKC
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To: RandallFlagg

Zombie ping


19 posted on 02/12/2012 12:01:08 PM PST by DogByte6RER ("Loose lips sink ships")
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To: DogByte6RER
My brother, while somewhat conserative, is mostly mainstream. He still watches TV and goes to restaurants. I'm the extreme extremist of the family.

So the other day, he shows me his 4 shot .22 mag concealed carry derringer. And it is actually a pretty cool little device. We killed a pig with it that we had trapped.

Off hand, I said "Yep, it'll kill a 20 pound piglet, but it won't be much use against mutant biker zombies."

At which point, he reached into the center console and pulled out a Desert Eagle loaded with JHP.

I almost threw up, I was laughing so hard.

Even the sleepy conservatives are getting a clue.

/johnny

20 posted on 02/12/2012 12:02:48 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: DogByte6RER
When is it okay to kill a zombie?

Living humans have a perfect right to use force in their self defense if a zombie is violating or threatening to violate their natural rights.

21 posted on 02/12/2012 1:24:53 PM PST by mjp ((pro-{God, reality, reason, egoism, individualism, natural rights, limited government, capitalism}))
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To: CholeraJoe; Delta 21; Nikas777; NoAmnesty; Yorlik803; TheOldLady; The Comedian; OB1kNOb; ...


Thanks to DogByte6RER for the ping.
22 posted on 02/12/2012 6:17:19 PM PST by RandallFlagg (Look for the union label, then buy elsewhere.)
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To: DogByte6RER
When is it okay to kill a zombie?

Whenever you encounter one.

Photobucket

23 posted on 02/12/2012 11:36:58 PM PST by IYellAtMyTV (Je t'aime, faire du bruit comme le cochon.)
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To: mjp
Agreed when you deem them a threat to you and yours. Not so sure on the following:

“For those who are infected and in transition to the point of having lost lucidity, the moral action is immediate death. Whether you are considering the later possible harms of the zombie, the current harms of pain to the individual, or the dignity of the person being robbed by the transition, the lack of reasonable thought means that person's protests and pleading are to be ignored.”

It sounds a lot like Alzheimer's or any host of other conditions. At my relatively young age, I have thought that if I saw Alzheimer's coming I would jump on to the nearest ice floe to spare my family. Although I suppose I would have my moral qualms about that and not do it. And that is a far cry from going through the old folk's home and “putting them out of their (our?) misery”.

Although I have a feeling we are getting closer and closer to that time.

Interestingly the little speech that Rick gave in the Walking Dead in tonight's episode saying that hope is still out there, that zombies is no different than any other type of death that has ALWAYS been around, and we don't just give up. I had told my kids that EXACT SAME SPEECH last season when they talked about how they would just kill themselves rather than have to try to survive in a world with zombies.

“But dad - they're zombies!”

“Yeah, but is that any different than grandpa loosing both his legs to diabetes and still pushing on?”

“But zombies TEAR your legs off”.

“Or any different than having cancer eat away at your body?”

“DAAADDD - they are ZOMBIES!”

“Life is tough no matter what, but as long as you are alive you keep the faith and you keep the hope. And sometimes that might be all you have to hold on to. And ALWAYS remember - head shots!”

And yes - I'm a hypocrite for thinking that I would like to kill myself before putting my family through Alzheimer's. I guess that would be a VERY poor example to them on how to persevere through life's struggles. Alzheimer's doesn't run in my family, so I hope I never have to face that dilemma.

24 posted on 02/12/2012 11:58:58 PM PST by 21twelve
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To: 21twelve
Alzheimer's doesn't run in my family, so I hope I never have to face that dilemma.

What about Zombism?

25 posted on 02/13/2012 2:33:30 AM PST by verga (Party like it is 1773)
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To: verga

Thankfully I got my conservatism from my Dad’s genes. And I live pretty far away from my liberal sister in case it is contagious!


26 posted on 02/13/2012 3:24:25 AM PST by 21twelve
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To: DogByte6RER

How long can a zombie shuffle around before it becomes real dead and why don’t they eat each other?


27 posted on 02/13/2012 3:32:32 AM PST by Hot Tabasco (The only solution to this primary is a shoot out! Last person standing picks the candidate)
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To: 21twelve
I assume you have seen this one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a6YdNmK77k

28 posted on 02/13/2012 5:12:46 AM PST by verga (Party like it is 1773)
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