The Double Effect

The Moral Principles of “The Double Effect”(www)

    The principle of the double effect applies to an act that may potentially have a good effect (such as a relief of pain) and a possible bad effect (such as death from the pain medication). I will use severe pain and its control as an example for meeting the requirements of the principles of the double effect. For an act to be considered ethical all four of the conditions of the double effect must be met.

Double Effect Conditions:
1. The action taken (treating pain to relieve suffering) is ‘good’ or morally neutral.
2. The bad effect (possible death from the pain medication) must not be intended, but only permitted (could possibly happen).
3. The good effect cannot be brought about by means of the bad effect (the ends do not justify the means).
4. There is a proportionally grave reason to perform the act (severe pain requiring pain control) to risk the bad effect.

All of the above conditions must be strictly met to help assure that an action is ethical.