Since morality is attributed to human action, thus consequences of moral acts are imputed to the doer. When the actor physically does the act, the action is physically imputed to that person and if the actor does not perform the act but causes another to do it, the first person is still morally responsible for the consequences of the act to the degree that he foresaw those consequences. Even the actions of other people may be imputed to us if we have encouraged or persuaded them to do something (For e.g. Abetment of Suicide) or remained silent when these people clearly needed advice. (We will discuss in detail the section of Applied ethics)
DOCTRINE OF DOUBLE EFFECT
Some actions have two effects—good and bad. How does one decide the morality of such actions? The most difficult problem is to figure out whether the evil effect caused the good effect. One way of resolving this problem is by asking the following question: If you take away the evil effect, does the good effect remain? If the good effect remains, the evil effect did not cause it. Let’s consider an example for better understanding;
Taking the case of pregnant woman who is about to deliver, whose physician has diagnosed serious medical complications and said, it may not be possible to save both lives (Mother and Baby). Now, it is a question of one life versus the other. Let’s apply Doctrine of Double effect;
It is lawful (moral) to perform an act of two effects (one life saved, the other lost) provided the actor (physician) intends the good effect although the actor foresees that the evil effect is possible (Loss of life of either mother or baby). In the case, the physician may perform a surgical procedure intending to save the woman’s life (good effect), but from which procedure the physician foresees that death of the unborn infant (evil effect) will result. However, the physician does not intend this evil effect.
The good purpose—saving the pregnant woman’s life—is the primary effect and if we remove the evil effect—the death of the foetus—the good effect remains. Thus, it can be called a moral act.