The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 2011

The Principle of Double Effect

Lisa Gasbarre Black
Pages 41-48

Double Effect and U.S. Supreme Court Reasoning

Legal minds have utilized the principle of double effect as proposed by St. Thomas Aquinas for centuries to shape legal authority in cases where moral judgment and legal reasoning meet. The U.S. Supreme Court had uti­lized double-effect reasoning in the realm of self-defense cases. This article discusses more recent use of double-effect reasoning in the landmark Supreme Court case Vacco v. Quill and its companion case, Washington v. Glucksberg. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the Court in Vacco, introduced double-effect reasoning to identify the distinctions between palliative care and assisted suicide in an effort to uphold the constitutionality of the ban on assisted suicide in New York. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 11.1 (Spring 2011): 41–48.