Can It Be More Moral to Do Nothing?


If someone is in excruciating terminal pain, you can let them die but you can’t kill them.

Q1 Analysis

This may be a Q1 violation if you think that letting someone die is murder or you are against euthanasia or allowing extreme suffering.

Q2 Analysis

This is a Q2 violation if you would want someone to kill you if you were in horrible, long-term pain with no chance of recovery, or if you wouldn’t want someone to let you die under any circumstances.


The assumption behind this statement is that if there are two paths to a result and both of those paths require an action that would in and of itself be considered immoral, it is better to choose the path where you take no action than the path where you take action. Or, to put it another way, it is more moral to do nothing and let something bad happen than to directly do something bad.

This position seems to incorporate a number of additional assumptions, namely:

Imagine that you are in charge of a baby that was born with an exposed spine. The baby will live in excruciating pain for about three months before dying. The baby’s parents have abandoned it. With this scenario in mind, consider the following actions. Are any more or less moral than the others?

There are many situations in which you can choose to take action or not take action. In which (if any) of these examples would it be morally allowable — or preferable — not to act?

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at and See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on July 13, 2010 at 10:22 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

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