Principle of double effect

Print this page Doctrine of double effect This doctrine says that if doing something morally good has a morally bad side-effect, it's ethically OK to do it providing the bad side-effect wasn't intended. This is true even if you foresaw that the bad effect would probably happen. This might seem counter-intuitive, but the principle is used in serious argument about some important issues in ethics. Euthanasia Although euthanasia is illegal in the UK, doctors are allowed to administer potentially lethal doses of painkilling drugs to relieve suffering, provided they do not primarily intend to kill the patient.

Principle of double effect

Formulations of the principle of double effect Thomas Aquinas is credited with introducing the principle of double effect in his discussion of the permissibility of self-defense in the Summa Theologica II-II, Qu.

Wherefore, if a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful, whereas, if he repel force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. Later versions of the double effect principle all emphasize the distinction between causing a morally grave harm as a side effect of pursuing a good end and causing a morally grave harm as a means of pursuing a good end.

The prohibition is absolute in traditional Catholic applications of the principle. Two traditional formulations appear below. The New Catholic Encyclopedia provides four conditions for the application of the principle of double effect: The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.

The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect Principle of double effect should do so.

The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary. The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect.

Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is Principle of double effect allowed. The conditions provided by Joseph Mangan include the explicit requirement that the bad effect not be intended: A person may licitly perform an action that he foresees will produce a good effect and a bad effect provided that four conditions are verified at one and the same time: In both of these accounts, the fourth condition, the proportionality condition is usually understood to involve determining if the extent of the harm is adequately offset by the magnitude of the proposed benefit.

Double effect might also be part of a secular and 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. Warren Quinn provides such an account while also recasting double effect as a distinction between direct and indirect agency.

Principle of double effect

On this view, the distinction between direct and indirect harmful agency is what underlies the moral significance of the distinction between intended and merely foreseen harms, but it need not align perfectly with it.

Applications Many morally reflective people have been persuaded that something along the lines of double effect must be correct. No doubt this is because at least some of the examples cited as illustrations of DE have considerable intuitive appeal: The terror bomber aims to bring about civilian deaths in order to weaken the resolve of the enemy: The tactical bomber aims at military targets while foreseeing that bombing such targets will cause civilian deaths.

When his bombs kill civilians this is a foreseen but unintended consequence of his actions. Even if it is equally certain that the two bombers will cause the same number of civilian deaths, terror bombing is impermissible while tactical bombing is permissible.

The mistaken assumption that the use of opioid drugs for pain relief tends to hasten death is discussed below in section 5. Performing an abortion, by contrast, would involve intending to kill the fetus as a means to saving the mother.

To kill a person whom you know to be plotting to kill you would be impermissible because it would be a case of intentional killing; however, to strike in self-defense against an aggressor is permissible, even if one foresees that the blow by which one defends oneself will be fatal.

It would be wrong to throw someone into the path of a runaway trolley in order to stop it and keep it from hitting five people on the track ahead; that would involve intending harm to the one as a means of saving the five.

But it would be permissible to divert a runaway trolley onto a track holding one and away from a track holding five: Misinterpretations Does the principle of double effect play the important explanatory role that has been claimed for it?

To consider this question, one must be careful to clarify just what the principle is supposed to explain.Nigel Warburton explores the Doctrine of Double Effect.

the Doctrine of Double Effect So, for example, the principle is invoked to consider the terror bombing of non-combatants having as its goal victory in a legitimate war morally out of bounds, while holding as ethically in bounds an act of strategic bombing that similarly harms non-combatants with foresight as a side effect of destroying a legitimate military target. In their use of the distinction between intent and foresight without intent, advocates of double effect make three arguments.
Doctrine of Double Effect (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) So, for example, the principle is invoked to consider the terror bombing of non-combatants having as its goal victory in a legitimate war morally out of bounds, while holding as ethically in bounds an act of strategic bombing that similarly harms non-combatants with foresight as a side effect of destroying a legitimate military target.
Cookies on the BBC website Print this page The doctrine of double effect This doctrine says that if doing something morally good has a morally bad side-effect it's ethically OK to do it providing the bad side-effect wasn't intended. This is true even if you foresaw that the bad effect would probably happen.
On this page Some doctors use the deliberate sedation of patients to deep unconsciousness for the purpose of relieving suffering. Euthanasia advocates claim that doctors are acting in a hypocritical way, hiding under the doctrine of "double effect", when in fact their primary intention is to kill the patients.
EWTN - Catholic Voter's Guide - The Principle of Double Effect Formulations of the principle of double effect Thomas Aquinas is credited with introducing the principle of double effect in his discussion of the permissibility of self-defense in the Summa Theologica II-II, Qu. Killing one's assailant is justified, he argues, provided one does not intend to kill him.

Some people believe there is a significant moral difference between deliberately killing someone and performing an action that you know will result in another's death. The Principle of Double Effect This principle is attributed to St.

Euthanasia and The 'Principle of Double Effect' | The Life Resources Charitable Trust

Thomas Aquinas, who used it to show that killing in self-defense is justified (Summa Theologiae I-II q64 art. 7). With respect to voting, it would allow under certain conditions the toleration of the unintended evil of another for a proportionate reason.

The Principle of Double Effect (and our responsibility regarding the environment) Suppose that you know that an action has two consequences, or effects, one good and one bad. The doctrine (or principle) of double effect is 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 some good end.

Term.

Principle of double effect

DOUBLE EFFECT. Definition. The principle that says it is morally allowable to perform an act that has at least two effects, one good and one bad. The 'Principle of Double Effect' was developed by Roman Catholic moral theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries.

According to the principle of double effect, it is morally permissible to perform an act that has both a good effect and a bad effect if all of the following conditions are met.

BBC - Ethics - Introduction to ethics: Doctrine of double effect