February 27, 2024

Bioethics for Halloween: should zombies be euthanased?

It’s not too soon to prepare for the zombie apocalypse

The approach of Halloween next Wednesday seems an appropriate time to raise the sensitive topic of zombie euthanasia. Kyle Munkittrick, of Pop Bioethics, has outlined the bioethical principles involved. Experts say that a zombie apocalypse is only a remote possibility on current trends, but it is not impossible. In fact, according to a survey carried out by the Committee to Reelect President Obama, about 49.4% of Americans are already zombies. A poll commissioned by the Committee to elect Mitt Romney found that the figure is about 49.3%. Clearly, if either of these figures is correct, the price for unpreparedness could be high.

There are, says Munkittrick, three principles involved in deciding whether zombies may be ethically shot, beheaded, incinerated, etc: the dignity of the body, the state of the infection, and the zombie’s potential for recovering consciousness.

Dignity of the body: a zombie has none. De-animating a zombie restores its dignity. “Therefore, it is acceptable to lobotomize, ignite, and/or puree the zombie without violating your Kantian commitment to the dignity of the body.”

The state of the infection. The situations of people who have been recently infected, who are in transition to zombiehood, or who are fully-committed zombies are different. But the safest course of action is immediate euthanasia.

Consciousness. Even if zombiehood is reversible, the person would survive with significant neurological deficits which would compromise its dignity. The safest course of action is immediate euthanasia.

A professor at Harvard Medical School, Steven Schlozman, has just published a book on the neuroanatomy of the zombie brain, The Zombie Autopsies, to help prepare for the possibility of a zombie apocalypse. In the video above (Zombie Autopies 101) he dissects a brain to show the parts which are malfunctioning.

A zombie’s shambling gait is due to problems with its cerebellum. A zombie craves human flesh because its ventromedial hypothalamus is “messed up”. It is stupid because its frontal lobe has been damaged, perhaps irretrievably. its rage is due to a malfunctioning amygdala. The only way to kill zombies is to crush the brain stem, destroying their autonomic nervous system and making it impossible for their hearts to beat or for them to breathe. A meat cleaver in the frontal lobe or parietal lobe may not be sufficient disrupt their functioning.

Michael Cook
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