DS9: "Sons of Mogh":

KURN: I have never understood you, Worf. But I do know this. In your own way you are an honourable man. (Kurn passes out.)

WORF: And you will be an honourable man again, but not as my brother.

Above implies that Kurn did not know what was about to happen to him and that this was a unilateral decision by Worf.

WORF: What will he remember?

BASHIR: He'll know he's a Klingon, and how to speak the language, and virtually everything he needs to know in order to survive, except who he is. And that's the first question he'll ask. Who am I? Do you have an answer?

WORF: There is a man named Noggra, a friend of our father's. He will be arriving in a few hours. He has agreed to provide Kurn with a new identity and a new family. He will supply Kurn with all the answers he needs.

BASHIR: Are you absolutely certain about this, Worf? Once I've erase his memory engrams it'll be almost impossible to restore them. He won't remember you or anything about his real life.

WORF: It is the only way. You may begin.

Again by Worf asking Bashir about the procedure while Kurn is on the table unconscious implies that Kurn was not consulted about this procedure beforehand.

Bashir is a Federation doctor that took a hippocratic oath. Part of that oath is to do no harm. Most people wouldn't want their family doing an elective procedure on them without their consent. In fact, most people wouldn't want any procedure done on them without their consent. (especially one to wipe their memory)

Kurn was effectively stipped of his very being, his memories, everything that made him who he was. Bashir even said it, he won't remember anything about his "real life." He became an empty shell, basically how Klingons refer to their dead.

He didn't really get his honor back, his soul and/or lineage did not change. Plastic surgery, some DNA changes, and wiping someone's memory doesn't change their soul. Although this is not my question, it is something to consider.

I can't believe Sisko would allow it to happen on DS9. There has to be some Federation law against something like this. Telepathically reading someone's mind without their consent is illegal in the Federation. Remember in the same episode Sisko reams Worf for trying to kill his brother to regain his honor, which clearly is a Klingon ritual. Bashir had just saved Kurn earlier thereby stopping a Klingon ritual before it ended.

Even the way they did it was sneaky. If they had asked Kurn, there's a good chance he'd say no. There's no honor in living a lie. What a horrible violation it was.

The Federation is supposed to be an enlightened advanced society.

In light his hippocratic oath to do no harm, existing Federation law, and Kurn's civil liberties, how could Bashir possibly perform this operation without Kurn's consent?

STU, EU, and writers notes are welcome. Anyone with knowledge of Hippocratic oaths or Federation law would be helpful as well.

  • 2
    I think it might be possible to get an answer for this using the books. Examples of Federation attitudes to similar, if not the same, procedures, or generally more information about the kinds of oaths Federation doctors take could ideally provide a good perspective on this.
    – Shisa
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 5:17
  • 2
    MInd-reading is not illegal in the Federation, BTW.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 5:37
  • 1
    Memory wiping is also fairly prevalent. It appears to be SOP with accidental contact of pre-warp civilizations.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 14:31

4 Answers 4


Valorum gave me a link. It directly answers the question based on the writers.

I'll highlight the relevant points and include the link.

Michael Dorn the actor who played Worf stated in an interview, "I thought wiping Kurn's memory was a smart move. You don't want to get rid of Kurn, but he wanted to die. In a way, he was dead already. The show gave me something to do in terms of acting, going from being a good Klingon to now being out in the middle of this space station. Worf really is alone". ("Michael Dorn: The Klingon Way", Star Trek: Communicator, issue 114)

According to René Echevarria, "A lot of people objected to Worf robbing his brother's memories, kind of killing him on a certain level, yet not. The fan reaction was pretty strong, they really seemed to hate that."

The article states what I stated: "In particular, people felt that Bashir's involvement was unacceptable; that no doctor would ever consent to do such a thing without the patient's express permission."

Ronald D. Moore, one of the shows writers, who came up with the idea for the memory wipe, defended Bashir, "It's not too hard to envision Worf going to Bashir, explaining the situation, and Bashir saying, 'Okay, it's your belief system'. I just wasn't interested in writing that scene." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

Ronald D. Moore further stated that "People seem to have liked it. I think the one criticism I've heard several times is that people have objected to Worf wiping his brother's memory at the end, that it was immoral or that he had gone too far in doing it. I understand that point of view, but it felt as if, in Klingon terms and in Worf's mind, he was giving his brother the only way out. Worf, I think, is caught in the crux of a dilemma where he doesn't want to kill his brother because he is more Human than he thought he was, but at the same time he's very strongly Klingon and understands that his brother cannot go on with his honor being torn from him like this. So he really had to find a third way out, and giving his brother a new life and a new chance to be somebody else seemed like the best to Worf. So I JUSTIFIED the decision in my mind in that sense. The one thing that is a more legitimate criticism is that we never showed the scene where Worf went to Dr. Bashir and talked to him about it and got him to agree. I take it as read that off-camera that scene did occur, that he did have that discussion, and that Bashir ultimately came around to the point of view of understanding that it's a Klingon thing and that he could see the logic behind that Worf was doing and agree to do it. But the way the show plays out ultimately, there is a little bit of a feeling that you go to Bashir's laboratory to to get your memory wiped, and that he is the mad scientist". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 13)

To summarize many fans had the same problem that a doctor wouldn't do such a procedure. The main writer admitted that he probably should have written this scene in because it gives the feeling of a "mad scientist" sort of doctor.

Not all answers are necessarily satisfying, especially since as fans we get to think of characters acting in certain consistent manner. So when we perceive a character acting, "out of character" it can be alarming. Remember this is the same Bashir that a few episodes before wanted to stay on a planet, risking his life as a prisoner, stranded with a bunch of Jam'haddar, just so that he could try to cure them of their addiction to the "white." The Bashir I know is of very high moral, human moral character. In lieu of that...

The best answer, which I believe in this case is provided by the writers, is that the writers decided that Bashir would do the procedure after being convinced by Worf that it needed to be done because of Klingon tradition.

Link to the article: https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Sons_of_Mogh_(episode)#Reception

  • Makes you wonder if euthanasia is illegal in the Federation. Th
    – user16696
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 21:57
  • @cde Such a sad ending to an episode. I wish they wouldn't have made this one, just like the Tuvix episode which was so sad at the end. Characters that you feel like you know to have such great character, and then make what appears at least, to be pretty selfish decisions. Both of them were difficult for me to watch.
    – JMFB
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 23:10
  • @Richard Doesn't the definition of euthanasia include the fact that the choice is made by the one who is dying? That clearly wasn't the case here. As I wrote above to cde, such a sad episode.
    – JMFB
    Commented Jun 12, 2015 at 23:12
  • 4
    @JMFB Maybe what Worf convinced Bashir of is that, by Klingon traditions and mindsets, this was in fact a choice made by Kurn. If for no other reason than that it was the only choice, or because the traditions say that the choice is, in actual fact, Worf's. Something like: if it is Worf's duty to kill him, then surely it is his right to pick the time and way. Worf probably played this for a loophole and picked a memory wipe and new identity as the way. His humanity may have given him the wiggle room here that a strictly Klingon interpretation would not. Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 0:40
  • @zibadawatimmy I like what you said although this question is about Dr. Bashir's choices. There's another question I asked about Worf and restoring Kurns honor. It might be more appropriate there. Maybe you want to take a shot at an answer over there, just remember to use quotes and the like to frame your answer. And since you're new, canon is better then extended universe. Quotes are better than speculation, etc. I'd also bear in mind that being sneaky and doing something behind ones back, not in the open, is generally not considered honorable, especially by Worf.
    – JMFB
    Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 3:47

Human ethics don't necessarily apply to Klingon society. In the TNG episode "Ethics" we saw that Worf preferred death to life as a paraplegic. Riker reluctantly accepted his choice and was willing help Worf end his life. He was saved from taking action by the realization that the duty should fall to Worf's son.

In the same episode, Picard counsels Dr. Crusher to accept the fact that Worf would rather risk his life on an experimental medical procedure than accept life "lurching through corridors like some half-Klingon machine." Even though the proposed procedure was medically unethical, Worf was allowed to take the risk.

In Kurn's case, the choice was death by his own hand or "injury" by partial memory erasure. As with Worf, Kurn's choice to not live in a state intolerable to him was respected. And as in the episode "Clues" when Starfleet officers are faced with the choice between memory erasure and death, memory erasure was an acceptable choice. Everyone on Enterprise had their memories wiped and no one was given a choice in the matter.


We know that in certain extreme cases, Federation law allows for medically assisted suicide. There's a Bolean law that defines physicians as people who are responsible for relieving suffering "VOY: Death Wish". So while one could argue this was effectively murder, legally, it was okay from that view.

Frankly, one could argue that the alternatives were to let him kill himself or euthanize him, which both Bashir and Worf would have problems doing. Compared to those options, this was a lot less bad. It was grey morality instead of black morality.

From a legal perspective, Bashir could easily claim a changeling did this, since he was captured by dominion forces at least twice. This would be a reasonable defense, considering what happened to him over the years.

So legally, it was okay, and morally, it was the less bad of several options. However, it was ethically dubious, and it's a good thing questions like this exist; because such ethically questionable acts should be questioned.


It's worth noting that Julian had twice had to save Kurn's life; after Worf performed the Klingon ritual that would have allowed him to die with honour without committing suicide directly; and again after he tried to do the reverse of committing "suicide by cop" as part of Odo's security team.

Kurn clearly intended to find a way to end his life by someone else's hand. Given that as an alternative, it wouldn't necessarily have been that difficult to convince him to proceed with the memory wipe option. Once could easily argue that, at this point, being faced with further incidents, keeping Kurn alive the next time this happened might actually be doing harm.

And, as noted, in Klingon culture (as explicitly mentioned by Kurn in the episode), Worf as the head of the house had the right to tell Kurn what to do or not do. Dax would have been able to confirm this (in the unwritten scene where Julian is convinced, perhaps), which could make the whole thing just that bit much more palatable.

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