The principle of double-effect in a clinical context

Poiesis and Praxis 1 (3):211-218 (2003)
Abstract
Whereas indirect euthanasia is a common clinical practice, active euthanasia remains forbidden in most countries. The reason for this differentiation is usually seen in the principle of double-effect (PDE). PDE states that there is a morally relevant difference between the intended consequences of an action and merely foreseen, unintended side-effects. This article discloses the fundamental assumptions presenting the basis for this application of the PDE and examines whether these assumptions are compatible with the PDE. It is shown that neither a liberal nor a utilitarian point of view makes the utilization of the PDE possible. In accordance with philosophical tradition, only within the doctrine of the sanctity of life does the PDE seem to be applicable. By analysing the premises of this doctrine, and comparing them with those of the PDE, the inconsistency of this idea is demonstrated. It is suggested that the role of the PDE in the current discussion on euthanasia is largely exaggerated
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