Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 33–37 | Cite as

Knowing, Anticipating, Even Facilitating but Still not Intending: Another Challenge to Double Effect Reasoning

  • S. Duckett
Critical Perspectives


A recent administrative law decision in Victoria, Australia, applied double effect reasoning in a novel way. Double effect reasoning has hitherto been used to legitimate treatments which may shorten life but where the intent of treatment is pain relief. The situation reviewed by the Victorian tribunal went further, supporting actions where a doctor agrees to provide pentobarbitone (Nembutal) to a patient at some time in the future if the patient feels at that time that his pain is unbearable and he wants to end his life. The offer to provide the drug was described as a palliative treatment in that it gave reassurance and comfort to the patient. Double effect reasoning was extended in this instance to encompass potentially facilitating a patient’s death. This extension further muddies the murky double effect reasoning waters and creates another challenge to this concept.


Double effect reasoning End of life Assisted dying Terminal sedation 


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grattan InstituteCarltonAustralia

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