Consequentialism, the action/omission distinction, and the principle of double effect: Three rival criteria to solve vital conflicts in cases of necessity

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Abstract

In this paper, the principle of double effect is compared with two other methods to solve vital conflicts in cases of necessity, i.e., situations in which the life of a person can only be saved by an action that causes the death of another. After determining some key concepts, the consequentialist method of moral reasoning is analyzed, and it is shown why it should be rejected by a legal system that recognizes the inviolable dignity of the human person and the absolute rights founded on it. Next the doctrine that gives importance to the distinction between action and omission is examined. The author shows that this doctrine, although it has been subscribed to by some philosophers and jurists, attributes an unjustified moral relevance to physical causality. Finally, an argument is presented to demonstrate that the principle of double effect is the correct doctrine by which resolve vital conflicts in cases of necessity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-229
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Journal of Jurisprudence
Volume62
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of University of Notre Dame. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Action/omission distinction
  • Conflicts of duties
  • Consequentialism
  • Necessity
  • Principle of double effect
  • Vital conflicts

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