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Allowing or Causing: Another Look

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▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to K. Danner Clouser; Department of Humanities, College of Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Pennsylvania State University; Hershey, PA 17033.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Ann Intern Med. 1977;87(5):622-624. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-87-5-622
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If "allowing to die" is really different from "causing to die," it is so on a much more subtle level than is generally thought. Efforts to compare the two by locating "cause" have been mistaken. What is really at issue is the location of moral responsibility. The physician has an obligation to save and is remiss if he does not try. The layman does not and is not. But as saving turns into pointless torture, the physician's obligation recedes, and he (ethically) becomes a layman. There is a range within which this turning point would take place for each of us, and the value of a "living will" can be seen as a means for each of us to specify that point for himself.





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