Deconstructing the doctrine of double effect

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 3 (2):195-207 (2000)
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Abstract

This paper examines the doctrine of double effect as it is typically applied. The difficulty of distinguishing between what we intend and what we foresee is highlighted. In particular, Warren Quinn's articulation of that distinction is examined and criticised. It is then proposed that the only credible way that we can be said to foresee that a harm will result and mean something other than that we intend it to result, is if we are not certain that that harm will result. The ramifications of this are explored. The paper concludes with a moral evaluation of a variety of cases that have harmful outcomes. It is recommended both that we abandon the doctrine of double effect and that we cease to describe cases with harmful outcomes in a dishonest way.

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