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Omission and the Moral Responsibility for Death, Coursework Example

Pages: 1

Words: 382

Coursework

 “… the physician’s omission can only bring about death on the condition that the patient’s disease will kill him in the absence of treatment. We may hold the physician morally responsible for the death if we have morally judged such actions as wrongful omissions.” (Callahan, 359)

Callahan tries to elaborate the circumstances the physician’s actions or lack of it can amount to death, possibly making the omission count as “killing.”  In his argument, he reiterates that physicians cannot be accountable for killing patients under all circumstances. He believes that true death can only occur when the underlying lethal disease which the practitioner failed to respond to was capable of causing death to the patient.

Over time, physicians have been accused of “killing” patients in circumstances where they failed to respond on time or under absolute failure. People fail to understand the difference between causality and culpability in that the physicians under these circumstances play no physical role in death but the lethal disease itself.  The author also resurrects the discussion of the culpability of causing death whereby he argues that it is not an absolute demonstration that the patient’s death makes the physicians culpable. Callahan asserts that these culpabilities are morally or ethically constructed by defining wrong and right. Therefore, moral culpability over death arises under circumstances where the responsibility of medical response had a moral definition. Therefore, the argument that a physician “kills” a patient should be understood as a moral construct and not the legitimate view of the situation that amounts to the responsibility of the death (54). Callahan further adds that this concept fails to withstand argument since, when the doctor performs the omission at the patient’s request or when the physician’s actions could not stop death from occurring, it does not amount to “killing.”

Essentially, Callahan reiterates that man does not cause death when he omits an action. It is the illness that causes physical death. Thereby culpability only exists in that the death of an individual occurs when the doctor allows a lethal condition to proceed to its fatal end. Further, he confirms that a doctor can only cause death when he introduces a lethal injection that proceeds to its lethal conclusion, leading to both physical and moral responsibility.

References

Callahan, D. (1992). When self-determination runs amok. The Hastings Center Report22(2), 52-55. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3562566

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