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Star Trek TNG - Season 5 - Episode 16

Star Trek TNG - 5x16 - Ethics

Originally Aired: 1992-3-2

Synopsis:
An injured Worf opts to commit ritual suicide. [DVD]

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 6.1

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 11 0 5 1 13 7 32 17 19 12 11

Problems
None

Factoids
None

Remarkable Scenes
- Geordi uses his visor to cheat in poker. But only after the hand is over. ;)
- Worf asking Riker to kill him.
- Beverly and Russell discussing Klingon redundancy.
- Beverly and Russell discussing her experimental procedure.
- Worf: "No! I will not live like that. 60% of my mobility? No, I will not be seen lurking through corridors like some half Klingon machine! The object of ridicule and disgust."
- Beverly objecting to Russell telling Worf about her experimental treatment.
- Russell using one of her experimental treatments on a patient from the mine explosion, killin him.
- Picard trying to convince beverly to make an exception to the rule of her morals in Worf's case.
- Riker confronting Worf about his ritual suicide and informing him that after his studies, he's realized he is not allowed to kill him. That only Alexander is.
- Worf deciding to live and undergo the dangerous procedure.
- The operation.
- Russell: "That will kill him!" Beverly: "Looks like we've done a pretty good job of that already, doctor."
- Beverly's critical speech of Russell's methods.

My Review
An aptly named episode, this episode nicely deals with ethics, of a medical kind. It also deals with the ethics of suicide, in the ritual form. Only the premise of this episode is weak. Firstly, it seems unlikely that cargo containers that are so heavy aren't secured by something. This isn't necessarily impossible, but not caring for something this obvious seems like bad writing. A better premise would have been to say that the restraints broke on one of the cargo containers. Problem eliminated thusly.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-09-29 at 7:57pm:
    - When the barrel falls on Worf, it ends up near his FEET. Another barrel follows it down, and when it hits the floor, the top pops off. In the next shot, Geordi runs up and pushes a barrel away from Worf's SIDE. Also, the second barrel suddenly has its top back on.
    - During his first visit with Worf, Riker makes small talk by commenting that Worf looks pretty good for someone who's been eating sick bay food for three days. How can institutional food still have a stigma in the twenty-fourth century? Everything is replicated!
    - When Worf dies at the end of the operation, Dr. Crusher uses a drug that under normal circumstances would kill him. Even after being taken completely off life support and giving flatline readouts on all the medical displays, Worf manages to come back to life! Dr. Crusher makes a comment that Worf must have a "backup for his synaptic functions." Even if Worf had a backup, wouldn't the lethal drug Crusher administered have killed that, too?
    - Also, why didn't Worf's backup show on a medical scan? And why didn't the medical displays show the activity of his synaptic backup?
  • From KingElessar8 on 2009-03-22 at 9:52am:
    I like this episode, probably more than most. It's an unusual subject for Trek, and it always seemed to me like there was more character conflict here than is common for TNG, making this one a little sharper-edged and more personal than the usual "ship in peril" type plots we so often are given. I liked how Picard, Riker, Troi, Beverly and Worf each have a very distinct way of reacting to this problem, and in each case it is fully in character - but it was interesting to me that Data plays no real role in the story. What would Data's reaction be to Worf's desire to commit suicide? Accept it as logical, or does suicide run counter to his ethical programming?
  • From MJ on 2011-02-13 at 12:06pm:
    I think this is TNG at its finest, the real essence of the show that sets it apart from other shows. Here you have several different points of view, each of them with strong justification, and none of them able to be reconciled with the others. The solution is not easily found, and getting to it ends up straining some relationships along the way.

    You have Crusher, who takes her usual cavalier attitude regarding the customs of her non-human patients. She's rigidly tied to her perception of good medicine and doesn't apologize for it. You have Riker, the chosen friend and honorable companion, who fought alongside Worf and loves him, but finds it difficult to abandon his human morals on this matter. You have Picard, able to see the Klingon perspective and, while certainly not wanting Worf to die, tries to give Crusher and Riker a new perspective. And then enter Dr. Russell, who practices a wildly different style of medicine than Crusher, who sees Russsell as being reckless and is thoroughly unimpressed by her. All of this makes for a fascinating work of TV.

    In the end, things are more complicated than anybody might be willing to admit. Worf is confronted with a flaw in his plan. He is prepared to accept the Klingon fate for a crippling injury, but is unable to involve his son in the ritual, a flaw which absolves Riker of the burden he wrestles with. And while Crusher is disgusted with Russell's brand of medicine, the fact is, Worf represents the one type of situation where Crusher's do-no-harm, play it safe style simply doesn't suffice. Being risky might be bad medicine, but as Picard points out, it's exactly the type of medicine needed for a patient like Worf.

    Underlying this episode, of course, is the euthanasia/assisted suicide debate. The old points of contention over sanctity of life, playing God, sparing suffering, and all the rest are brought to bear, but since it’s not a human patient, there’s a new twist: for humans, this particular injury would never call for assisted suicide. By exploring it from the point of view of another species for whom it does call for assisted suicide, however, we can ask the same types of questions in a more dispassionate setting.
  • From Daniel on 2014-07-18 at 8:50am:
    I like this episode for its examples of contrasting morals and ethics in the various characters. I also like it for its emotional impact. But, it brings up two general questions for me... 1. When the doctors perform surgery, why do they go to such lengths to cover their bodies to prevent contaminating the sterile environment, yet they don't wear face masks to prevent breathing germs onto the patient, as any surgeon would? 2. Aside from Geordi's blindness, why are there no handicapped people in Starfleet, on any ship, or any space station? If Worf were to be confined to a wheelchair, do you think they'd still let him do his duty as chief of security?
  • From Mr. Awesome on 2016-01-11 at 4:08pm:
    I have mixed feelings about this episode contrary to popular belief. While I do like the premise of this episode (any serious subject requiring lots of thought with no easy solutions are the most fascinating to me), there are numerous flaws, ranging from the practically absurd to intellectual inconsistency.

    First, you would think that silly ailments like paralysis would have long been easily treatable by this time. In real life right now, as I'm typing this, medical advancements are being made with such things as stem cell research, nanotechnology, and bionics. You would think heavily advanced versions of these would be readily available. That's why it kind of irks me that La Forge would be blind, requiring a visor for corrective vision.

    Secondly, it was mentioned that Klingon anatomy was still not fully understood. How is this possible so far on the future? How could you have members of Starfleet whose basic anatomy you still don't understand? How can Klingons have advanced technology allowing them to pursue interstellar travel, yet not have basic medical understandings of their own physiological makeup? Considering the fact that Klingons are now members of the Federation, this seems illogical.

    Thirdly, my biggest gripe is with Dr. Crusher's hypocrisy considering her "holier than thou" attitude. She condemned Dr. Russell for testing new treatment methods on patients, which is understandable to a degree. However, wasn't Crusher the one who, in a previous episode, suggested, or even ordered, Captain Picard undergo a surgery to fix his heart, a surgery holding the potential of killing him? Also, as aforementioned, Crusher admits in this episode that her medical team lacked a full understanding of Klingon biology. As such, wouldn't ALL her treatment methods for Klingons be dangerous, seeing as how there's no telling what kind of adverse effects could occur from various treatment methods designed to treat human ailments? In addition, Crusher can't pretend as if she has a perfect track record when it comes to treating patients. Numerous patients have died under her care over the course of this show. On top of that, she condemns Dr. Russell for her failed treatments for the patients that died under her care, yet Worf dies after Crusher chooses to administer a drug that Russell claims would kill him. Furthermore, Crusher lectures Russell at the end about "conventional research/medicine", yet Crusher doesnt offer any kind of assistance to Russell in terms of developing and perfecting this new surgical technique to perhaps enhance Worf's chances of survival, which could be revolutionary for Federation medicine overall. On top of ALL of that, Crusher is willing to hold Worf hostage against his will in sick bay rather than respect his wishes to die or undergo a dangerous yet potentially revolutionary treatment that could help him regain his abilities. Wouldn't that violate the Hippocratic oath? I understand this episode was made around the time of the real life issue concerning Dr. Kevorkian and his physician assisted suicide methods, but one would think that hundreds of years from now, these types of ethical conundrums would have long been solved.

    Despite these gripes, it's still a good episode. Obviously it's very thought-provoking, but I wish it could've been put together a little better.

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