Acts and omissions, the Doctrine
of Double Effect, and ordinary
and extraordinary means
'To do nothing is in every man's power.'
Samuel Johnson (1709-84)
If we do not give as much to charity as we possibly could, we are allowing people to die. Is there any moral difference between this and killing someone? In general terms, is there any moral difference between acts and omissions?
In our discussion of the Principles of Beneficence and Non-maleficence we saw that consequentialists argue that there is no moral difference between actions and omissions (see 5.2.1). If we evaluate the rightness or wrongness of actions by their consequences then we must recognise that consequences can be produced by omissions as well as acts. This is why consequentialists support the view that there is