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September 26, 1966

Life Saving vs Population Explosion

Author Affiliations

Santa Barbara, Calif

JAMA. 1966;197(13):1108-1109. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110130108040

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To the Editor:—  A magazine recently published a cartoon showing a lifeguard being rebuked for suggesting that drowning might be an acceptable solution for the population problem. Apparently the extreme competition for resources that will eventually follow exponential population growth has produced the paradox that life-saving techniques offer a threat to humanity.A paradox implies a fallacy. Perhaps the fallacy in this instance is the popular assumption that a lifeguard works for humanity when in fact he works for the individual swimmer. This swimmer and his descendants will consume resources that could be used to maintain the well-being of other individuals. Thus the lifeguard has aided the swimmer in competition against the rest of humanity. Normally the lifeguard will continue to work for the swimmer for he knows that ultimately he is working for himself.If a physician insists on working for the good of all living humanity he might