Two puzzles for deontologists: Life-prolonging killings and the moral symmetry between killing and causing a person to be unconscious [Book Review]

Journal of Ethics 5 (4):385-410 (2001)
Some form of agent-relative constraint against the killing of innocent personsis a central principle in deontological moraltheories. In this article I make two claimsabout this constraint. First, I argue that somekillings of innocents performed incircumstances usually not taken to exculpatethe killer are not even pro tanto wrong.Second, I contend that either there is noagent-relative constraint against the killingof innocents or this constraint has a verydifferent shape from that which deontologistsnormally take it to have. My defence of theseclaims rests on two propositions. First, inkilling someone one may actually prolong thatperson''s life. Roughly, life-prolongingkillings are possible, because to kill someoneis to perform an act that causes someone''sdeath and it might well be true that, had onenot performed this act, one''s ``victim'''' wouldhave died earlier. Second, all other thingsbeing equal, killing and causing a person to beunconscious are morally equivalent. Both ofthese propositions are defended in thearticle
Keywords action theory  constraints  deontology  Jeff McMahan  morality of killing  respect for persons  sanctity of life doctrine
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DOI 10.1023/A:1013949529483
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