Pain relief, acceleration of death, and criminal law

: This paper considers whether a physician is criminally liable for administering a dose of painkillers that hastens a patient's death. The common wisdom is that a version of the doctrine of double effect legally protects the physician. That is, a physician is supposedly acting lawfully so long as the physician's primary purpose is to relieve suffering. This paper suggests that the criminal liability issue is more complex than that. Physician culpability can be based on recklessness, and recklessness hinges on whether a physician has taken an unjustifiable risk of hastening death. The authors identify three conditions of justifiability. Their analysis helps to explain the distinction between euthanasia, which is legally banned, and the use of risky analgesics, which is permitted in limited circumstances
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DOI 10.1353/ken.1996.0017
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