End-of-life decisions and moral psychology: Killing, letting die, intention and foresight [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6 (3):337-347 (2009)
In contemplating any life and death moral dilemma, one is often struck by the possible importance of two distinctions; the distinction between killing and “letting die”, and the distinction between an intentional killing and an action aimed at some other outcome that causes death as a foreseen but unintended “side-effect”. Many feel intuitively that these distinctions are morally significant, but attempts to explain why this might be so have been unconvincing. In this paper, I explore the problem from an explicitly consequentialist point of view. I first review and endorse the arguments that the distinctions cannot be drawn with perfect clarity, and that they do not have the kind of fundamental significance required to defend an absolute prohibition on killing. I go on to argue that the distinctions are nonetheless important. A complete consequentialist account of morality must include a consideration of our need and ability to construct and follow rules; our instincts about these rules; and the consequences that might follow if the agent breaks a good general rule, particularly if this involves acting contrary to moral instinct. With this perspective, I suggest that the distinctions between killing and letting die and between intending and foreseeing do have moral relevance, especially for those involved in the care of the sick and dying
|Keywords||Intention Double effect principle Euthanasia Withholding treatment Terminal care|
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References found in this work BETA
Marc Hauser (2006). Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong. Harper Collins.
Thomas Scanlon (2008). Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Philippa Foot (1967). The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect. Oxford Review 5:5-15.
James Rachels (2009). Active and Passive Euthanasia. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Exploring Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. Oxford University Press
Citations of this work BETA
Steven A. Trankle (2014). Decisions That Hasten Death: Double Effect and the Experiences of Physicians in Australia. BMC Medical Ethics 15 (1):26.
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