Killing and Saving: Abortion, Hunger, and War

By John P. Reeder Jr. | Go to book overview

1
The Right Not to Be Killed and the Right to Be Saved

I argue for a negative right not to be killed and a positive right to have one's death prevented, to not be allowed to die. My first task is to propose that there is a sensible distinction between two sorts of actions: killing, and allowing to die or letting die. We need to know what we are contrasting when we speak of killing over against letting die before we can ask whether the distinction has moral significance and, if so, what sort. A narrow notion of the distinction equates it simply with the difference between commission and omission: one kills if one unplugs a respirator, one lets die if one does not start it up. A broader notion I adopt here links the distinction to a difference in two types of situations: in the one, the agent brings about a causal process sufficient to cause death; in the other, the agent refrains from preventing or continuing to prevent some other antecedently obtaining lethal process.1 I adopt this broader notion because the narrower one sug-

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1
For discussion of the view that the distinction between killing and allowing to die expresses the distinction between acts (commissions) and omissions, see Brock ( 1986, 118ff.). "When I kill someone, I act in a way that causes that person to die when they would nototherwise have died in that way and at that time. When I allow someone to die, I omit to act in a way that I could have acted and that would have prevented that person dying then; that is, I have both the ability and the opportunity to act to prevent the death, but fail to do so"

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Killing and Saving: Abortion, Hunger, and War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Right Not to Be Killed and the Right to Be Saved 6
  • 2 - Yielding and Nothing is Lost 44
  • 3 - The Pursuer 75
  • 4 - Double Effect 106
  • 5 - Absolutism 154
  • Conclusion - A Modest Consensus 172
  • Appendix - Moral Status 177
  • Bibliography 204
  • Index 228
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