Meet the leading thinkers in bioethics today, who are pondering the morality of our capabilities in medical science. Part 4/5.
Read the full transcript »
MaryLynn: Most of the ethical questions arise from the situation where our actions result in some benefit and some harm. Our moral responsibility largely depends on our ability to foresee the possibility of harming others and predict the results of our deeds. But can someone be accountable for harmful outcome even if they claim they couldn’t see the consequence of a certain action of decision. Dr. Aulisio talks about the principle of double effect, vincible, and invincible ignorance. And their application to complex problems of bio-ethics. Male: Dr. Aulisio earned his bachelor’s degree at a seminary, served as a theologian at the seminary for one year, and then left the study of theology to do his doctoral work in applied philosophy. His doctoral thesis focused on the doctrine of double effect, important in the catholic tradition. Dr. Aulisio: The principle is that in life, we will inevitably cause good and bad effect with our actions. But morality is largely about what we intentionally do or don’t do, at least from the stand point of many moral traditions. And one of the questions that comes up is that if any given action may have multiple effects good and bad, when it is justifiable to bring about that effects when you know that you’ll be bringing about that effects? Male: Dr. Aulisio said, a classic example of the double effect is in the case of a mother who develops cancer of the uterus and she's pregnant. Dr. Aulisio: May the uterus be removed even though it contains a developing fetus? Is this acceptable in the tradition under a classic application of the doctrine double effect? The answer is yes. This is not abortion. This is the unintended bringing about the death of the fetus through an otherwise good action. You're removing the cancerous uterus to stop the spread of cancer to save a life. This is what double effect is about. What you do intentionally and what we know will bring about in the relationship between them. Given other considerations of consequences and proportionate reason. Male: In many cases, as Dr. Aulisio points out, sometimes it is not easy to know where a certain decision will take us. In bio-medical research, we may not be able to fully envision the consequences of certain decisions. So how do we apply the principle of double effect? Dr. Aulisio: Well, the principle of double effect is especially applicable where there are foreseen effects, some of which are intended, some of which aren't. So once responsibility for bringing about unforeseen effects could depend on a lot of things depending on the moral tradition working with it. Male: According to Dr. Aulisio, what must also be considered in ethical inquiry is whether one should have known something that they claim they couldn’t know? Dr. Aulisio: It can depend on whether or not you should have foreseen these effects. So you think about negligence, for example, in law. Or you can talk about sort of negligence in morality too, you were ignorant that you shouldn’t have been. You didn’t foresee these things but you should have. So you didn’t use due diligence or something like this. Unintended consequences that we may bring about that really can't be foreseen or at least couldn’t reasonably be expected to be foreseen, still could be brought to you because you're causally responsible. But how responsible you are morally will depend on the moral tradition. Male: In a strictly act utilitarian tradition, one is expected to trace consequences to human action that even if they could not be foreseen, one is still be responsible. Because the consequences will eventually be laid at one’s door. Dr. Aulisio: If you're talking about a moral tradition, say a cantian moral tradition, most religious traditions, especially roman catholic, judeatic traditions, also Islamic traditions. You're looking at intention much more than you're looking at consequences. And you're looking at knowledge, and in the catholic tradition for example, there's an old distinct