[ The discussion in the earlier post today regarding ABC’s revolting “What Would You Do?” convinced me that I should re-post this essay about a real-life “What Would You Do?”tragedy, which originally appeared on The Ethics Scoreboard in 2006. Entitled “Death on Everest,” It has been lightly edited to bring it up to date.]
As 34-year-old mountaineer David Sharp lay near death on Mount Everest, over 40 other climbers trudged past him on their march to the peak. All had oxygen with them, and a few even stopped briefly to give Sharp a few breaths. But still they climbed on, and Sharp perished. His demise on May 15, 2006 has gone into ethics lore alongside the infamous death of Kitty Genovese on March 13, 1964. Genovese was murdered outside her apartment building in Queens while thirty-eight neighbors watched and did nothing.
The two incidents stem from very different causes, however. While Genovese’s death was fueled by urban fear and apathy, a mass failure of courage and the willingness to assume responsibility in a crisis, Sharp was the victim of that universal ethics-suppressant, the powerful non-ethical consideration. Continue reading