more from Jonathan Glover

Single Idea 4659

[catalogued under 24. Applied Ethics / A. Decision Conflicts / 5. Omissions]

Full Idea

If someone is being kept alive on a respirator and I switch it off, this makes death no more certain than if, when attaching the patient to the machine, I fail to switch it on.

Gist of Idea

It doesn't seem worse to switch off a life-support machine than to forget to switch it on


Jonathan Glover (Causing Death and Saving Lives [1977], 7.4)

Book Reference

Glover,Jonathan: 'Causing Death and Saving Lives' [Penguin 1982], p.98

A Reaction

In practice, though, neglect is more excusable than a bad act, and (crucially) bad actions always indicate a bad character, whereas neglect may indicate a good person who is very busy. Neglect can, of course, be very wicked.