The requirement for an act of killing to be justified under the doctrine of double effect

Foot, Philippa, Willful or irresponsible ignorance does not excuse you. If it is always wrong to kill another person, then it is wrong to build highways, because we know that these highways will cause the deaths of some people in traffic accidents.

Those who reject double effect for this reason may still maintain that there is a morally significant difference between self-sacrifice of this sort and suicide, but that the difference depends on a difference in the agent's motives and ends, not a difference in the means adopted.

Garcia, Jorge, The proportionality condition. Cavanaugh, T. But note that many people respond that it is not true that death is always worse than living with pain.

Example of double effect in nursing

Marquis, Donald B. Theological Studies 10, If Quinn's view is correct, and if the distinction between direct and indirect agency is easier to draw clearly, and is not subject to redescription under the influence of our moral judgments about permissibility, then perhaps the objections outlined above can be answered. When these assumptions are made, double effect seems to provide at least part of a justification for administering drugs to relieve pain. Formulation of the Principle. Kamm, Frances M. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed. Some opponents of the principle of double effect do indeed deny that the distinction between intended and merely foreseen consequences has any moral significance. Second, there are those who take the paired intuitions in the Trolley Problem as proof of the fundamental role of Double Effect as an implicit principle guiding moral judgment Philippa Foot, , John Mikhail, New York: Fordham University Press, , pp. If these arguments are correct, then they cast doubt on the claim that Double Effect explains the permissibility of these actions. First, it is a misinterpretation to claim that the principle of double effect shows that agents may permissibly bring about harmful effects provided that they are merely foreseen side effects of promoting a good end. Even if it is equally certain that the two bombers will cause the same number of civilian deaths, terror bombing is impermissible while strategic bombing is permissible. For example, consider the deliberations of public health officials who propose to put in place a vaccination program in their region in order to protect citizens from a rapidly spreading, highly contagious, and invariably lethal disease. However, if it is also maintained that a hysterectomy may be performed on a pregnant woman with uterine cancer because the death of the fetus would be a merely foreseen side effect of surgery, it is hard to find a principled ground for drawing this distinction that could serve as a guide to moral judgment.

The doctor should ask himself, "If the patient were not to die after my actions, would I feel that I had failed to accomplish what I had set out to do? In this discussion, as in many others, the principle of double effect may serve more as a framework for announcing moral constraints on decisions that involve causing death regretfully than as a way of determining the precise content of those decisions and the judgments that justify them.

Doctrine of double effect euthanasia

After all, physicians are not permitted to relieve the pain of kidney stones or childbirth with potentially lethal doses of opiates simply because they foresee but do not intend the causing of death as a side effect! This point of view may not be consistent with invoking Double Effect as a justification: if, in the course of treating a dying patient, death is not viewed as a harm, then Double Effect does not apply see Allmark, Cobb, Liddle, and Todd See section 6 for a full discussion of this application of double effect. The same kind of argument can be made for cases of killing in self-defense. Some critics of the principle of double effect have maintained that when double effect has been invoked, substantive independent justifications for causing the kind of harm in question are implicitly relied upon, and are in fact, doing all of the justificatory work. Supreme Court has voiced support for this principle in its deliberations over the constitutionality of medical aid in dying. In other words, the doctrine of double effect gives us a principle for social intervention to limit free behavior. Traditional formulations of the proportionality condition require that the value of promoting the good end outweigh the disvalue of the harmful side effect.

This is true even if you foresaw that the bad effect would probably happen. It is not at all clear that all of the examples that double effect has been invoked to justify can be explained by a single principle. But it would be permissible to divert a runaway trolley onto a track holding one and away from a track holding five: in that case one foresees the death of the one as a side effect of saving the five but one does not intend it.

doctrine of double effect trolley problem

Double effect might also be part of a secular non-absolutist view according to which a justification adequate for causing a certain harm as a side effect might not be adequate for causing that harm as a means to the same good end under the same circumstances.

If the soldier who throws himself on the grenade in order to shield his fellow soldiers from the force of an explosion acts permissibly, and if the permissibility of his action is explained by Double Effect, then he must not intend to sacrifice his own life in order to save the others, he must merely foresee that his life will end as a side effect of his action.

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Doctrine of Double Effect (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Spring Edition)