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Rev Med Chil. 2012 Feb;140(2):261-5. doi: 10.4067/S0034-98872012000200017.

[Euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the principle of double effect: a reply to Rodolfo Figueroa].

[Article in Spanish]

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  • 1Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de los Andes, Santiago, Chile.


The purpose of this paper is to defend the traditional application of the principle of double effect as a criterion for assessing the permissibility of actions that have as their common aim to end the suffering of seriously ill patients. According to this principle, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are always illicit acts, while the same is not said for other actions that bring about patient's death as a foreseen effect, namely, palliative treatments that hasten death or failure or interruption of life support. The reason for this difference is that, in the first two cases, the patient's death is intended as a means of pain relief; whereas, in the latter two, death is only a side effect of a medical act, an act justifiable if it is necessary to achieve a proportionate good. In a recent issue of this Journal, Professor Rodolfo Figueroa denied the soundness of the principle of double effect and maintained that all actions described above should be considered equivalent in law enforcement. Here, the author presents a reply to that argument, and also offers a justification of the afore said principle's core, that is, the moral and legal relevance of the distinction between intended effects and foreseen side effects.

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