Harming Some to Save Others

F. M. Kamm

in Morality, Mortality Volume II: Rights, Duties, and Status

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780195144024
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199870998 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Harming Some to Save Others

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Continues the consideration of when it is and is not permissible to kill some to save others, by presenting a new proposal (related to an earlier one made by the author) for a Principle of Permissible Harm (PPH) for dealing with the Trolley Case and related cases. One upshot of this proposal is to show that many redirection‐of‐threat cases are not sui generis but one of a class of cases in which greater good (or its structurally equivalent component or a means that has greater good as its non‐causal flip side) may permissibly cause lesser harm. This PPH is compared with the Doctrine of Double Effect, and a morally crucial distinction concealed within the concept of ‘intending’ is pointed out. The problem then is to explain what important moral notions the PPH expresses; an investigation is made of this (focusing on the maintenance of appropriate relations between victim and beneficiaries) and of why the PPH does not govern omissions (even when there are positive rights). Concludes by examining the bearing of the PPH on the killing/letting‐die distinction, and the problem of euthanasia, also noting how its application is limited by, among other considerations, the Principle of Secondary Permissibility and the distinction between intra‐ and inter‐personal benefits.

Keywords: appropriate relations between victim and beneficiaries; Doctrine of Double Effect; euthanasia; greater good; harming some to save others; intention; intra‐ vs inter‐personal benefits; killing some to save others; killing vs letting‐die; moral distinctions; Permissible Harm; Principle of Permissible Harm; Principle of Secondary Permissibility; redirection‐of‐threat cases; Trolley Case

Chapter.  19965 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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