The Double Effect Principle: Conditions Associated with It

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Choosing a career in the medical field will undoubtedly lead to you having to make difficult ethical decisions at certain times. A common issue experienced by many physicians is the decision to medicate a terminally ill patient in order for them to achieve a better quality of life. This is a difficult situation when medicating the patient will potentially reduce the life span. The doctor along with the patient must decide which is the better option: longer life with a low quality or a high quality of life with a shorter span.

The Double Effect Principle can be used to make a decision in the even of a morally questionable situation. The principle is applied to the situations where a person’s actions have two possible outcomes. An outcome that is potentially good and an outcome that is potentially bad are both possibilities. This principle is applied to the situation where a physician would have to make the decision to administer medication for a patient in severe pain. The good outcome of the medication is the patient would have a comfortable and higher quality of life free from pain. The bad outcome of the medication is the patient might die sooner than without the medication (Goldworth, 2008).

There are four conditions that are associated with the Principle of Double Effect. The first is the action itself must be neutral or good in moral terms. The second condition is the intended effect from the action must be good and the intention must never be to cause harm. The third is the positive outcome must not be the result of the negative outcome. Lastly, there must be a much greater reason for permitting the bad effect. In the circumstance of administering life shortening pain medication, the intent must be to relieve the patient’s pain and not to shorten their life span. Pain relief must be the effect that is intended for the patient. The positive effects must out weigh the negative - the higher quality of life is more important that the length (Goldworth,...
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