On acts, omissions and responsibility

Centre for Social Ethics and Policy and Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, School of Law, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.
Journal of medical ethics (Impact Factor: 1.51). 09/2008; 34(8):576-9. DOI: 10.1136/jme.2008.024729
Source: PubMed
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    • "Yet the implication that everyone in the world may be the cause of the window being open is reflected by other comments he makes. He draws a distinction between two kinds of omissions, omissions 'over which one has no power, such as the failure to save the lives of people whom it would be physically impossible to rescue'(Coggon 2008: 578) and omissions over which one does have such power. It seems as though, for Coggon, one can omit even if one has no power whether to omit or not, but it is only omissions over which one does have power for which one can be morally responsible. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper I discuss a recent exchange of articles between Hugh McLachlan and John Coggon on the relationship between omissions, causation, and moral responsibility. My aim is to contribute to their debate by isolating a presupposition I believe they both share and by questioning that presupposition. The presupposition is that, at any given moment, there are countless things that I am omitting to do. This leads both McLachlan and Coggon to give a distorted account of the relationship between causation and moral or (as the case may be) legal responsibility and, in the case of Coggon, to claim that the law’s conception of causation is a fiction based on policy. Once it is seen that this presupposition is faulty, we can attain a more accurate view of the logical relationship between causation and moral responsibility in the case of omissions. This is important because it will enable us, in turn, to understand why the law continues to regard omissions as different, both logically and morally, from acts, and why the law seeks to track that logical and moral difference in the legal distinction it draws between withholding life-sustaining measures and euthanasia. KeywordsOmissions–Causation–Responsibility–Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining measures–Euthanasia
    Preview · Article · Nov 2011 · Journal of Bioethical Inquiry
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    ABSTRACT: In a recent issue of Neuroethics, I considered whether the notion of human dignity could help us in solving the moral problems the advent of the diagnostic category of minimally conscious state (MCS) has brought forth. I argued that there is no adequate account of what justifies bestowing all MCS patients with the special worth referred to as human dignity. Therefore, I concluded, unless that difficulty can be solved we should resort to other values than human dignity in addressing the moral problems MCS poses. In his new book Christopher Kaczor criticizes the argument I put forward. Below, I respond to Kaczor’s criticism. I maintain that the considerations he presents do not undermine my argument nor succeed in providing adequate justification for the view that all MCS patients possess the worth referred to as human dignity.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2011 · Neuroethics
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    ABSTRACT: Coggon's remarks on a previous paper on active and passive euthanasia elicit a clarification and an elaboration of the argument in support of the claim that there is a moral difference between killing and letting die. The relevant moral duties are different in nature, strength and content. Moreover, not all people who are involved in the relevant situations have the same moral duties. The particular case that is presented in support of the claim that to kill is not the same as to let die is based upon a rejection of consequentialism.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2009 · Journal of medical ethics
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