Killing, Letting Die, and Withdrawing Aid
Ethics. 1993 Jan; 103(2): 250-279.
One of the aims of this article is to contribute to the identification of the empirical criteria governing the use of the concepts of killing and letting die. I will not attempt a comprehensive analysis of the concepts but will limit the inquiry to certain problematic cases -- namely, cases involving the removal or withdrawal of life-supporting aid or protection. The analysis of these cases will, however, shed light on the criteria for distinguishing killing and letting die in other cases as well. My overall aims in the article are partly constructive and partly skeptical. I hope to advance our understanding of the nature of the distinction between killing and letting die. This, I believe, will enable us to defend the moral relevance of the distinction against certain objections -- in particular, objections that claim that the distinction fails to coincide with commonsense moral intuitions. Yet I will suggest that, as we get clearer about the nature of the distinction and the sources of its intuitive appeal, it may seem that the intuitions it supports are not so well grounded as one could wish.