The Ethics of Death-Hastening or Death-Causing Palliative Analgesic Administration to the Terminally Ill
Cavanaugh, Thomas A.
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 1996 Oct; 12(4): 248-254.
Double-effect reasoning is a nonconsequentialist analysis of a hard ethical case. In a hard ethical case, one can achieve some good end only if one also causes harm. Sometimes palliative analgesic administration to a terminally ill patient is a hard ethical case, for by it one relieves pain or distress while unavoidably hastening or causing the patient's death. Is it ethically in the clear to administer an analgesic to relieve pain or distress knowing that one will hasten or cause the patient's death? Using double-effect reasoning, the author argues that death-hastening or death-causing palliative analgesic administration to a terminally ill patient is sometimes ethically in the clear and, at times, even obligatory.
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