Divisional Court: The Queen V. Dudley and Stephens, Essay Example

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Essay

Case Summary

Coming from the late 1800s, the case of Regina versus Dudley is a leading criminal case that involves eating human flesh at the face of pressure brought about by severe hunger. Most likely referred to as the process of human survival through cannibalism, this case raised a question of morality versus the need to survive. The shipwreck from the Mignonette yacht resulted to the supposed survival of four crewmembers only to end up in a dark occurrence of cannibalism as the other crews struggled to stay alive as they were cast way in a lifeboat in the middle of the sea for several days. Through drawing lots, the crewmembers in the anchor were able to decide who is likely to be the sacrificial victim. The sacrifice was more like a sense of defining survival for those who are still able to do so. The four crews included of Stephen, Dudley, Brooks and Parker. Later on Parker went into comma after not having anything to eat and only their own urine to drink for several days. Upon deciding that it would be parker who would be first to go, the others agreed that they would conform to the situation and ate the remains of their ‘friend’. Upon surviving and reaching the coast, the action of the surviving crew members was questioned by the court.

Final Decision

The final decision was basically based on three primary factors of the humanitarian law namely morality, ethics and legality. Survival of the three was considered essential, however, murder of one crewmember was considered unethical yet at some point necessary. Citing the case of Saint Christopher who was noted to have had a background on sacrificial rendering of humans to save the others, the case of the Queen versus Dudley was considered to be non-murderous. The magistrate and the court as a hole found no basis for charging murder nor was there an established point of reference as to whether the situation was unethical especially in relation to the need to survive.

Implications

From this case, it could be analyzed how the valuing of life and survival became a solid reference of judgment. Most likely, the people involved in the case were considered to have no other choices. The need to survive was vital and extraction of the weak was more accepted as a sense of sacrifice than a drive of cannibalism. Given that there was no established law regarding instances of survival during the time, the final decision in this case could be considered acceptable.

References:

Mallin, M. G. (1967), “In warm blood: Some historical and procedural aspects of Regina v. Dudley and Stephens”, University of Chicago Law Review (The University of Chicago Law Review) 34 (2): 387–407.

Walker, Andrew. (2011).  Is Eating People Wrong?: Great Legal Cases and How they Shaped the World. Cambridge University Press, New York.

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