The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring 2011

The Principle of Double Effect

Helen Watt
Pages 49-51

Bodily Invasions
When Side Effects Are Morally Conclusive

What kind of interventions on the body of an innocent human being may be licitly intended? This question arises in relation to maternal–fetal conflicts such as ectopic pregnancy and obstructed labor, and to other cases such as organ harvesting and separation of conjoined twins. Many assume that harm must be intended for absolute moral prohibitions to apply; however, it is not always the case that foreseen harm is merely a factor to weigh against benefits we intend. On the contrary, foreseen harm (and absence of benefit) for someone we affect can be morally conclusive when linked to an immedi­ate intention to affect the person’s body or invade the space it fills. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 11.1 (Spring 2011): 49–51.