doctrine of double effect
- in ethics, the doctrine that where a single action will forseeably have both a good and a bad outcome, a person may perform this action provided that (a) he intends only the good outcome, (b) the bad outcome is not disproportionate to the good, and (c) the good outcome is not a direct consequence of the bad. The doctrine arose in medieval theology and has often been applied to dilemmas in medical ethics. The classic example occurs where a terminally ill patient requires high doses of pain relief that will also hasten his or her death. In such a case the law holds that the doctor may supply the necessary dosage without this being considered tantamount to euthanasia, even though the outcome will be the same. The doctrine of double effect is rejected in consequentialist thinking (see consequentialism).
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