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July 31, 2006

Comments

Shane

Removing part of a person's body that that person needs in order to live is directly killing the person. I can't rip out a person's heart or liver or lungs or stem cells or anything else that the person needs to stay alive and claim that I'm not killing him.

Isn't removing the fallopian tube in an ectopic pregnancy, the environment that the embryo needs to survive, the same as directly killing it? It would be the same as removing all the oxygen from a room. What's the difference?

SDG

Isn't removing the fallopian tube in an ectopic pregnancy, the environment that the embryo needs to survive, the same as directly killing it? It would be the same as removing all the oxygen from a room. What's the difference?

Depends. Pumping all the oxygen out of a room isn't necessary wrong, even if it results in people dying, if you have a proportionate reason for doing it -- provided "doing it" = "pumping the oxygen" and not "killing the people."

For example, if by pumping the oxgyen out of the room you could pump it into another room where there were more people suffocating who needed the air more, then that would be morally valid. But you can't pump all the oxygen out of the room in order to kill the people in the room and thus appease a psychotic mad scientist who has threatened to kill the larger crowd in the other room unless you kill the first group of people.

Silly example, of course.

Jason

Also, removing a damanged organ (fallopian tube) which has caused a pathological condition is a good thing, not an evil thing. It just so happens that removing it treats the pathology and has a secondary & unintended (double) effect of bringing about the death of the child.

Jason

I should have been more clear above - and prefixed my statement with "if it is the only means to save ones life, then removing a damaged organ is a good thing.

Matt McDonald

If you have an oxygen bottle you'd pump it into the room with the most people, but I'm not sure you could take the oxygen away from one group of people to save the other...

In any event, the fallopian tube is licit because there is no need for the baby to die in order to save the mother, there is only a need to remove the diseased fallopian tube. Removing or destroying a vital organ is the same act as killing someone, in fact that's how it's done in most circumstances.

Sadly, the only clearly licit treatment of an IVF embryo is to simply allow him or her to die. Freezing would not be a moral means to preserve life, and ET itself may be immoral.

Matt McDonald

After reading the article I had a couple more observations:

1. Rosen not only fails on his application of the principle of double effect, he dishonestly ignores the fact that the Church hierarchy has correctly applied the teaching and authoritatively done so.

2. He uses self-defence killing, which is permitted in both Jewish and Christian theology, to justify any killing for the greater good. This is a gross missappropriation of that principle in both Christian, and presumably Jewish traditions.

3. He mistakenly suggests that disease is a moral evil, which it is not, at least in Christian theology. One can use the term "evil" to apply to a grave disease, but we all know that is not the same application as a moral evil.

John E

Suppose some scientists were hired by the Nazis to run experiments on the Jews in order to find cures for life-threatening diseases. Would those experiments be justified? What if the experiments didn't kill them, but it was known that it would significantly shorten their lives?

The moral question is a lot clearer when the subject in question is truly recognized as a person.

SDG

If you have an oxygen bottle you'd pump it into the room with the most people, but I'm not sure you could take the oxygen away from one group of people to save the other...

Yes, you can. You aren't killing the first group of people. Their deaths aren't a means or an end, only a consequence (a direct consequence, but still a consequence) of your moving the air needed to save the other people, which is good in itself.

Dean

A more real world analogy would be in the case of ship-board damage control.
A repair party is fixing a hole in the ship. Suddenly the situation goes from bad to worse and the choice is to lose the party of x number of people or lose the ship.

Sharon


This is a reply to Rosen's article by Stephen Bainbridge a law professor at UCLA

Double Trouble Font Size:

http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=072506D


Matt McDonald

"Yes, you can. You aren't killing the first group of people. Their deaths aren't a means or an end, only a consequence (a direct consequence, but still a consequence) of your moving the air needed to save the other people, which is good in itself."

I think this would need further analysis. Regardless of intent, the act of removing air from the room is a direct cause of their death. What if they tried to defend themselves and prevent their air supply from being removed, could you take action against them?

Matt McDonald

The damage control party situation is different. The people die because the air escapes from their portion of the ship, not because you took the air away... you didn't put the hole in the ship. You sealed off the damaged section to prevent the remainder of the crew being killed.

SDG

I think this would need further analysis. Regardless of intent, the act of removing air from the room is a direct cause of their death.

The law of double effect allows for acts that directly cause evil effects, including people dying. What it stipulates is that the evil effect must be neither an end in itself, nor a means to another end, only a consequence. Those conditions apply here.

What if they tried to defend themselves and prevent their air supply from being removed, could you take action against them?

Let me put to you a counter-example, no less artificial than the one we are considering.

You are standing outside a building with thousands of occupants who are about to be killed by a car bomb in the ground level parking garage. The only way to save them is to rush in and drive the car out of the building, though this will result in the deaths of a number of people on the street.

As you rush toward the building, the people on the street try to prevent you from doing so -- let us say in all innocence, not even to save their own lives, but to save yours.

Is it not lawful to take action against them in order to prevent them from stopping you from getting the bomb out of the building?

Alice

"Isn't removing the fallopian tube in an ectopic pregnancy, the environment that the embryo needs to survive, the same as directly killing it? It would be the same as removing all the oxygen from a room. What's the difference?"

The baby isn't going to survive in that enviroment, when it grows, the tube is going to burst and cause the death of the child and the Mother. Since the tube is obviously defective, it needs to be removed, perhaps in the future we will have the technology to implant the baby in the mother's womb but I don't think we do right now. Which is maybe what some scientist ought to be working on right now, instead of some of the things that some of them are working on. Perhaps someone is, that would be awesome.
Let's say you have a man in a room that is wounded so badly that it is apparent that he is going to die, next door is a man that has a broken leg, just a simple fracture, there is only enough oxygen for one of them to live off of until help arrives to get them out of there. What would YOU do?

Matt McDonald

"As you rush toward the building, the people on the street try to prevent you from doing so -- let us say in all innocence, not even to save their own lives, but to save yours.

Is it not lawful to take action against them in order to prevent them from stopping you from getting the bomb out of the building?"

I don't know, it's certainly a conundrum. While you may voluntarily martyr yourself, you may not force someone else to be a martyr. In fact if defenders of Pius XII said this in response to critics who said he should have taken stronger action against Germany, in effect forcing German Catholics to be martyred by reprisals by the Nazi's.

There are times when no action may be taken even to reduce the loss of life. An ectopic pregnancy where the baby is embedded in a vital organ. Removing the organ kills both, but direct action against the baby is immoral. Another example is an overloaded lifeboat, you could volunteer to swim even if it would result in your death, but you can't compel anyone else to do so.

SDG

There are times when no action may be taken even to reduce the loss of life.

I agree, and I gave an example of this in my first post above with the mad scientist. To give a more real-world example, you may not kill life in the laboratory no matter how many lives you will then save with the fruits of your work. It doesn't matter if a hundred thousand people will die because you aren't allowed to kill one embryonic life in the laboratory -- you can't do it.

While you may voluntarily martyr yourself, you may not force someone else to be a martyr.

Prescinding from issues around the word "martyr," isn't the acceptance of collateral damage in just warfare a recognition that sometimes you will directly bring about the deaths of innocents and non-combatants whom you have no right to kill as a means or an end, but whose deaths may be foreseen as a consequence of a morally justified act?

If there were innocent people on the Death Star, would it have been immoral for Luke to blow it up, directly causing their deaths?

An ectopic pregnancy where the baby is embedded in a vital organ. Removing the organ kills both, but direct action against the baby is immoral. Another example is an overloaded lifeboat, you could volunteer to swim even if it would result in your death, but you can't compel anyone else to do so.

I suspect these cases may be more debatable than you think.

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