The Danger of Double Effect

Christian Bioethics 18 (3):287-300 (2012)
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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that the doctrine of double effect is disposed toward abuse. I try to identify two distinct sources of abuse of double effect: the conditions associated with standard formulations of double effect and the difficulty of fully understanding one’s own intentions in action. Both of these sources of abuse are exacerbated in complex circumstances, where double effect is most often employed. I raise this concern about abuse not as a criticism of double effect but rather as a problem that defenders should observe and try to prevent. I go on to suggest certain methods for avoiding the abuse of double effect such as hesitating to use it, applying it only with other agents, and selectively and carefully propagating it

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