The Doctrine of Double Effect
In White, Benjamin P., McDonald, Fiona, & Willmott, Lindy (Eds.) Health Law in Australia. Thomson Reuters Australia, Sydney, pp. 491-506, 2010
Posted: 19 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2010
The doctrine of double effect is an exception to the general rule that taking active steps that end life is unlawful.
• The essence of the doctrine at common law is intention. Hastening a patient’s death through palliative care will be lawful provided the primary intention is to relieve pain, and not cause death, even if that death is foreseen. Some States have enacted legislative excuses that deal with the provision of palliative care. These statutory excuses tend to be stricter than the common law as they impose other requirements in addition to having an appropriate intent, such as adherence to some level of recognised medical practice.
Keywords: Health law, Medical law, Palliative care, Doctrine of double effect, End of life decision-making
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