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Omissions, causation and responsibility

McGee, Andrew (2011) Omissions, causation and responsibility. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 8(4), pp. 351-361.

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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 them both 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.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 43346
Item Type: Journal Article
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Omissions, Causation, Responsibility, Acts, Withholding Life-sustaining Measures, Letting Die, Prolonging Life Shortening Life
DOI: 10.1007/s11673-011-9330-2
ISSN: 1176-7529
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Criminal Law and Procedure (180110)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100) > Bioethics (human and animal) (220101)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > APPLIED ETHICS (220100) > Medical Ethics (220106)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > PHILOSOPHY (220300)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2011 Springer
Copyright Statement: The original publication is available at SpringerLink http://www.springerlink.com
Deposited On: 19 Jul 2011 09:11
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2013 07:40

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