The original Trolley Problem is stated as:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two (and only two) options:

  • Do nothing, in which case the trolley will kill the five people on the main track.
  • Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the more ethical option? Or, more simply: What is the right thing to do?

The legal aspects of which is addressed in this Law.SE question.

The fat man variant is:

As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by putting something very heavy in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you – your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

What does the law say if I push the fat man off the bridge? Does this act change the legal answer to the original Trolley Problem?

  • As it stands, I see this as a duplicate of the trolley question, because all you did was change a new nouns like "trolley" vs. "fat man" and so on: I don't see anything essentially different. I'm guessing that you mean "does this now become indisputably homicide?", and "fat man" and "pushing" are extraneous.
    – user6726
    Mar 4, 2022 at 2:06
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    @user6726 I would say this is slightly different as it could be argued that there is no evidence beforehand that the act would stop the trolley where as diverting it to another track would.
    – Joe W
    Mar 4, 2022 at 2:09
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    @user6726 that's what it looks like (and what the fat man variant was created to highlight), but in the original phrasing most people would pull the lever, while in the fat man variant most people would not push the fat man off the bridge. There could be some subtle nuance that affects the law too.
    – Allure
    Mar 4, 2022 at 4:33
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    As is always the case, the answer is not universal worldwide. It depends upon the laws of the jurisdiction in which the question is presented. There is, for example, not uniformity on the issue of whether a jurisdiction's criminal laws recognize the "choice of evils" defense.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 5, 2022 at 3:53
  • @Allure : there is also a significant difference in real life versus the thought experiment: when there is a lever, it is universally accepted that by pulling the lever you can be sure to avoid killing the 5 people. However, by pushing the fat man in front of the trolley, you can't be reasonably certain that it will stop the trolley before it hits the other five.
    – vsz
    Nov 4, 2022 at 7:25


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