Melissa Moschella


In recent years, a number of authors – such as Kershnar and Kelly, Steinhoff, and Scanlon – have criticized the doctrine of double effect (DDE) as incoherent, lacking an underlying rationale, or leading to counterintuitive conclusions.  These critiques, however, rest on a failure to understand the DDE’s broader theoretical context and presuppositions. This paper aims to clarify and advance the debate regarding the DDE by, first, outlining a contemporary version of the broader normative theory (i.e. the Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law tradition) within which the DDE finds its proper context, and explaining the rationale for the DDE within this context; second, clarifying the DDE’s proportionality condition to avoid common misinterpretations; and, third, showing how the DDE, when properly formulated and understood within the appropriate theoretical context, can withstand the recent criticisms that have been raised against it.



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