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Letters Morphine

Double effect is a myth leading a double life

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 01 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:440

Double Effect is a myth

I quite agree.

Not only is there literature(1) to support the idea that it is not
easy to cause death with morphine, but the so-called doctrine of double
effect has no place in English Law. Its true place is in Roman Catholic
moral thinking. In that context, it appears that a good motive for an
action can excuse foresight that a bad outcome is inevitable.

In English law by contrast, a person intends to cause another's death
if he does anything that he foresees will almost certainly have that
effect. The motive for the action is irrelevant.

1. The Double Effect of Pain Medication: Separating Myth from Reality
SUSAN ANDERSON FOHR, J.D., Journal of Palliative Medicine 1998; 1: 315-28

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 March 2007
Jeremy D Budd
Bridgwater, Somerset TA6 4GP