Trolly dilemmas fail to predict ethical judgment in a hypothetical vaccination context
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionDahl, F. A., & Oftedal, G. (2019). Trolley Dilemmas Fail to Predict Ethical Judgment in a Hypothetical Vaccination Context. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 14(1), 23-32. https://doi.org/10.1177/1556264618808175
We investigated whether the responses of 68 ethics committee members and staff to trolley dilemmas could predict their responses to research ethics problems concerning vaccine trials. Trolley dilemmas deal with the issue of sacrificing some for the benefit of many, which is also a core issue in the vaccination trial dilemmas. The subjects’ responses to trolley dilemmas showed no statistically significant correlation with their responses to our vaccination trial dilemmas. We concluded that, if there is a component of transferable intuition between the contexts, it must be small and dominated by other factors. Furthermore, the willingness to sacrifice some for many was larger in the trolley context, despite a more favorable risk/reward ratio and the voluntary participation of the subjects at risk in the vaccination situations. We conclude that one’s general willingness to trade lives in the trolley context may be an artifact that is due to its unrealistic setting.