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"Thy necessity is greater than mine."
—Sir Philip Sidney, as reported in his friend Fulke Greville's biography
A character insists on someone else getting attention — usually medical, sometimes water or evacuation — before he does, even though he is in need himself.
It can be a logical request, if the other person really IS more in need, and mostly means that the character cares about others even when he's in a bad situation himself. On the other hand, it can be a stupid move by a Martyr Without a Cause who's letting heroism get in the way of sensible triage — or by a wounded character in too bad a stage of shock to understand, where The Medic may have to persuade the insisting character to accept any treatment — or (worse) that the other character is dead and so past help.
If both characters are conscious, it can lead to a More Hero Than Thou dispute.
In military situations, it is especially likely to occur when the Officer and a Gentleman or A Father to His Men must insist on it for his troops (see The Men First), but can also occur between those of equal rank. The Power of Friendship can power it, but it can also occur between strangers — a subtrope of A Friend in Need.
Anime & Manga
- In Dragonball Z, at the end of the Buu saga, Goku has Dende cure Vegeta of his wounds first, because he was the most damaged of them all.
- Mahou Sensei Negima: Negi and Asuna find themselves injured after a fight. There's only one Super Healing Macguffin. And Negi insists that Asuna get it.
- Fushigi Yuugi presents us with an example in the sixth and seventh episodes. After Miaka stabs herself to save Tamahome, Hotohori and Nuriko from the evil Mirror-Miaka, Tamahome and Hotohori donate blood to her--from the chest and the wrist, no less. The group is then taken to Mount Taikyoku so they can send Miaka home, but their injuries had to be healed first. Although Miaka's wound was far worse and nearly fatal while Tamahome and Hotohori didn't even bleed much, she insists that the two men be taken care of first.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!! has an episode featuring a flashback to when Yugi's grandfather forfeited a duel over some water because his opponent was dying.
- One Piece: One of the core character traits of Monkey D. Luffy. It doesn't matter what condition he's in, his friends come first.
- Fate/stay night: Shirou has a bad habit of being mostly dead. Frequently. Nevertheless, he makes damn sure that everyone else is okay before he passes out from blood loss. He's so self-sacrificing it actually pisses off Saber, who thinks his heroics border on suicidal.
- In Hyakujitsu no Bara, Azusa invokes this in a reverse of The Men First after he and Klaus were found at the riverbank. Though it makes sense due to the greater severity of Klaus' injuries, it's notable because the medics/troops were more keen to help him in spite of being lower in rank and less seriously injured.
- In the showdown of the Record of Lodoss War TV series, Spark tells Garrakk that he will charge Naneel and take the hit of her deadly magic, so his friend can get close enough to her to kill her. Garrakk does not object to his plan, but when Spark counts down from three, he doesn't wait for him to finish and charges first, as it was his special mission to keep the other one alive at all cost.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, after Roy kills Lust he insists that Havoc be treated before him.
- At the end of one of the botched timelines of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka uses her last Grief Seed to save Homura instead of herself. Then again, she knows that Homura is able to travel back in time and prevent her sacrifice from being necessary, but still..
- In one of the Bleach novels (Nestle to Night), the girls from Harribel's Amazon Brigade are severely wounded after they barely survived their fight with Yamamoto... but they still tell Orihime to heal their also severely injured mistress first, rather than them.
- When Rogue first joined the X-Men Wolverine was bitterly furious about it. However, after she and he went up against some enemies, and she took an attack meant for him and Mariko and was dying, he forced her to absorb his own healing factor — over her objections, as she pointed out he was injured, too.
- Iron Man: Tony Stark has essentially killed himself at least twice for the sake of Steve Rogers:
- During the Red Zone arc in The Avengers, Red Skull (who immunized himself) unleashed an airborne poison and trapped Steve Rogers inside of a room with it. Tony Stark, despite being safe inside of his suit due to the air filters in it, takes off his helmet to give Steve mouth-to-mouth in order to keep him alive long enough for the super-soldier serum to fight off the effects of the poison, even though Tony was well aware that he'd most likely end up dying by doing so. In his mental dialogue, he even says that Steve is far more important than he himself is. Don't worry, to the shock of all of the readers, they both get better.
- At the climax of the Execute Program storyline in the Iron Man title, Steve is caught by the last of the rogue Iron Man armor and is about to be crushed. Without a single moment of hesitation (beyond a token yell of "STEVE!" ), Tony stops his own heart in order to shut the thing down, thus saving Steve's life at the cost of his own. Almost. He's dead for about half an hour, but then he's...well, fine.
- It is worth noting that no one, Tony included, knew that he would get better or why.
- A long-ago story arc in the Star Wars comics involved a planet that was dying as it's life-support systems failed. The missing component had been presented to an underworld boss years earlier by Han Solo (who thought it was junk, not knowing it's purpose at the time), telling him it was an award from the Alliance for his courage. Lando & Han hatch an elaborate plan to steal it back only to be captured. Upon finally learning what they were doing with his prized trophy & why he tells them they must take it back. It was the one thing the Mafia boss had ever gotten for doing the right thing & he could not sully it by keeping it when others needed it now.
- In Casper, he has a potion to restore him to life. But the girl's dad fell off a cliff and turned into a ghost. Casper let him use the potion instead, saying "You need this more than I do".
- Subverted in I Robot, where Del Spooner (played by Will Smith) explains how he was once involved in a car accident that left him and a small girl trapped in sinking cars. A robot was on hand to save them, but despite his pleading, it chose him over the girl based on a calculated 11% probability of survival.
"That was somebody's baby. 11% is more than enough"
- "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one" is practically a mantra of the Star Trek movies; and its inversion is the premise of the third movie.
- Brutally subverted in We Were Soldiers. During one evacuation, a soldier is seen on a helicopter with a sling on his arm. He gets off to make room for a fellow soldier being taken on a medical litter. As the soldier who got off sends off the wounded one and wishes him well, he then gets shot in the head by an offscreen enemy soldier. The wounded soldier then attempts to hold onto the now dead guy as the helicopter takes off.
- In William King's Warhammer 40000 novel Space Wolf, Ragnar carries an injured Space Marine from a fight and gives him over to the priests for his injuries to be cared for. One priest inspects Ragnar's own injuries. Ragnar tells him to care for the other Space Marine — realizing it sounded stupid even as he said it — and the priest assures him that the man is being cared for and (gently) orders him to accept treatment.
- In Louisa May Alcott's Little Men, the schoolboys capture their handyman and demand that he tell them a story. He tells them about his American Civil War experience; this includes the time he insisted that the wounded Confederate next to him be taken to the doctors first, because his injuries were worse.
- In The Dresden Files book Small Favor, during the rescue at the book's climax, Gentleman Johnnie Marcone insists that the first person to be evacuated be the Archive, a wounded and unconscious twelve-year-old girl. Harry Dresden remarks that it's stuff like this that makes it hard for him to file Marcone under "scumbag, criminal" and hate him.
- During a drought in the Warrior Cats novel The Fourth Apprentice, Jayfeather suspects that Longtail is giving his water to Mousefur because he thinks she needs it more.
Live Action TV
- An episode of Mash in which a guy comes in with his wounded buddy, and holds the E.R. hostage until the buddy is taken care of. "You save my buddy or everyone here dies" kinda thing.
- Truly becomes an example of this trope when the doctors serve him up an angry What the Hell, Hero? speech upon saving his buddy, and he collapses on the floor front of them. The doctors then discover he was just as badly wounded as his friend.
- The episode is A Full Rich Day.
- In the pilot movie of the original Battlestar Galactica Classic, in which Socialator Cassiopeia (basically a space hooker) insists "There are others in greater need than I" when Starbuck tries to get her medical attention for her broken arm.
- After the control room of Atlantis in Stargate Atlantis is blown up (again), Col. Sheppard finds Ronon sitting on the ground with a large shard of glass sticking out of his shoulder. Sheppard asks him why none of the medics are attending to him, and Ronon says he wouldn't let them, because others in the room need help more. Shepherd immediately calls BS on this, and orders one of the medics to see to Ronon's injuries. Ronon actually loves to pull this when he gets injured. Which isn't very often, actually.
- In Dept Heaven Apocrypha, Meria has been repeatedly using this excuse to avoid having her friends pry into the physical and emotional problems that landed her in the hospital. Then again, those friends are rape survivors and a stowaway demon, so...
- In For the Spirit of Creation, homeless Magical Girl Sara Aldred refuses food unless everyone else has eaten, and sleeps on the street so as not to deny someone else a bed at the homeless shelter. Luckily, her powers protect her from the physical effects of malnutrition and sleeping outside in freezing cold, but she still feels just as cold and hungry as anyone else would.
- Cyberswine: After Cyberswine and Lieutenant Sarah Lee crash their AV, Lee ends up with a broken rib. Cyberswine wants to take her to a hospital, but she insists that they have to try to help other people first.
- There's an achievement in Left 4 Dead for healing someone when your own health is critical.
- Frederick Banting, the man who discovered insulin, died in a plane crash. He died because he insisted on saving the life of the pilot instead of treating his own wounds.
- As Fulke Greville recounts in his Life of Sir Philip Sidney:
...being thirstie with excess of bleeding, he called for drink, which was presently brought him; but as he was putting the bottle to his mouth, he saw a poor Souldier carryed along, who had eaten his last at the same Feast, gastly casting up his eyes at the bottle. Which Sir Philip perceiving, took it from his head, before he drank, and delivered it to the poor man, with these words, Thy necessity is greater than mine. And when he had pledged this poor souldier, he was presently carried to Arnheim.
- An even more heroic example came from the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the Potomac River when one of the men in the water kept passing the rescue helicopter rope to other people. He tragically perished, but a nearby bridge was renamed in his honor.
- The group of people who give the highest percentage of their income to charity? Not the rich, but the working class. Similarly, poor individuals, including those actually below the US federal poverty limit, contribute more volunteer hours than any other class.
- Archduke Franz Ferdinand tried to get medical attention to his wife after they were assasinated. They both died nonetheless.
- Saint Maximilian Kolbe. A Franciscian friar in Poland, he was a bold critic of the Nazis which, coupled with him opening his friary to Jewish refugees, got him sentenced to Auschwitz. While there, he often stepped out of the ration line when rumors broke that they were running out. In July, 1941, an escape happened, and ten men from the escaped man's block were to be randomly chosen to starve to death in punishment. When one of the condemned broke down in tears over never seeing his wife and children again, Kolbe volunteered to take the man's place. Kolbe lasted three weeks, tending to the other condemned as best he could. The man whom he replaced? He survived Auschwitz and lived long enough to see Kolbe canonized in 1982.