Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=756887
 
 

Footnotes (379)



 


 



In Incognito: The Principle of Double Effect in American Constitutional Law


Edward C. Lyons


Oklahoma City University School of Law


Florida Law Review, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 469-563, July 2005

Abstract:     
In Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793 (1997), the Supreme Court for the first time in American case law explicitly applied the principle of double effect to reject an equal protection claim to physician-assisted suicide. Double effect, traced historically to Thomas Aquinas, proposes that under certain circumstances it is permissible unintentionally to cause foreseen evil effects that would not be permissible to cause intentionally. The court rejected the constitutional claim on the basis of a distinction marked out by the principle, i.e., between directly intending the death of a terminally ill patient as opposed to merely foreseeing that death as a consequence of medical treatment. The Court held that the distinction comports with fundamental legal principles of causation and intent. Id. at 802.

Critics allege that the principle itself is intrinsically flawed and that, in any event, its employment in Vacco is without legal precedent. I argue in response to contemporary objections that double effect is a valid principle of ethical reflection (Part II); claims to the contrary notwithstanding, double effect analysis is a pervasive, albeit generally unacknowledged principle employed regularly in American case law (Part III); and drawing on the preceding two sections, Vacco's application of the principle of double effect is appropriate (Part IV).

My conclusion is that [o]peration of some form of the principle, by whatever name, is inevitable. In an imperfect world where duties and interests collide, the possibility of choices of action foreseen to have both good and evil consequences cannot be avoided. In rare circumstances, ethics and the law require that a person refrain from acting altogether. More often, however, they provide that a determination of whether an actor may pursue a good effect although knowing it will or may unintentionally cause an harmful effect requires a more complex analysis - a double effect analysis.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 95

Keywords: Equal protection, double effect, intention, physician-assisted suicide, Constitutional Law, Bioethics

Accepted Paper Series





Download This Paper

Date posted: July 19, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Lyons, Edward C., In Incognito: The Principle of Double Effect in American Constitutional Law. Florida Law Review, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 469-563, July 2005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=756887

Contact Information

Edward C. Lyons (Contact Author)
Oklahoma City University School of Law ( email )
2501 N. Blackwelder
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
United States
(405) 208-6801 (Phone)
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 3,611
Downloads: 231
Download Rank: 76,982
Footnotes:  379

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo1 in 0.328 seconds