Law and Philosophy

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 65-74

First online:

Affirmative duties and the limits of self-sacrifice

  • Larry AlexanderAffiliated withSchool of Law, University of San Diego

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American criminal law reflects the absence of any general duty of Good Samaritanism. Nonetheless, there are some circumstances in which it imposes affirmative duties to aid others. In those circumstances, however, the duty to aid is canceled whenever aiding subjects the actor to a certain level of risk or sacrifice, a level that can be less than the risk or sacrifice faced by the beneficiary if not aided. In this article, I demonstrate that this approach to limiting affirmative duties to aid encounters the same problem of moral arbitrariness as does a “moral catastrophe” override of deontological side-constraints.