Doctrine of Double Effect
What is the Doctrine of Double Effect?
The doctrine of double effect if often invoked to explain the permissibility of an action that causes a serious harm, such as the death of a human being, as a side effect of promoting good ends. It is claimed that sometimes it is permissible to cause such harm as a side effect of bringing about a good result even though it would not be permissible to cause such harm as a means to bringing about the same good end. The reasoning is summarized with the claim that sometimes it is permissible to bring about as merely foreseen side effect a harmful event that it would be impermissible to bring about intentionally (Uniacke 1984).
It is not all clear that all of the examples that double effect has been invoked to justify can be explained by a single principle. Proponents of double effect have always acknowledged that a proportionality condition must be satisfied when double effect is applied, but this condition typically requires only that the good effect outweigh the foreseen bad effect or that there be sufficient reason for causing the bad effect. Some critics of the double effect has been invoked, substantive independent justifications are implicitly relied upon, and are in fact, doing all of the justificatory work (Uniacke 1984).
The doctrine of double effect says that if doing something morally good has a morally bad side-effect it is ethically ok to do it providing the bad side-effect was not intended. This is true even if you foresaw that the bad effect would probably happen (Uniacke 1984). Factors involved in the Doctrine of Double Effect
* The good result must be achieved independently of the bad one: for the doctrine to apply, the bad result must not be the means of achieving the good one. So if the only way the drug relieves the patient’s pain is by killing him or her, the doctrine of double affect does not apply. * The action must be...
References: Scanlon, T.M. (2008). Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Mening, Blame, Cambridge: Basic Books.
Uniacke, Suzanne (1984). “The Doctrine of Double Effect, “ The Thomist, 48 (2): 188-218.
Woodward, P.A. (ed) (2011). The Doctrine of Double Effect: Philosophers Debate a Controversial Moral Principle, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
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