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Unformatted text preview: tention. A rockfall occurs, catching the first of a group of potholers who are making their way out of a cave, in which water is rising rapidly. The man caught in the rocks is not seriously injured and may expect to be rescued in a day or two by search parties. Those behind him, however, will be drowned in a few hours by the rising water unless they make a passage through the fallen rocks. They can do so, but only by blasting the rocks away with the explosives they have with them, which will cause the death of the man caught in the rocks. Of this case, Kai Nielsen has written as follows.* "If there really is no other way of unsticking our . . . man, and if plainly, without blasting him out, everyone in the cave will drown, then, innocent or not, he should be blasted out. This . . . does not reveal a callousness toward life, for the people involved are caught in a desperate situation in which, if such extreme action is not taken, many lives will be lost and far greater misery will obtain .... Surely we must choose between evils here, but is there anything more reasonable, more morally appropriate, than choosing the lesser evil when doing or allowing some evil cannot be avoided?" Nielsen's argument is twofold: first, that since it is evident that in this case the stuck potholer ought to be blasted out, and since that is incompatible with the traditional moral doctrine that no (materially) innocent person may be killed under any circumstances, the traditional doctrine must be repudiated; and second, that the true moral doctrine is plain from the case, namely, that whenever a certain number of human lives can be saved, but only by taking a smaller number of such lives, the lesser evil is to be chosen and the smaller number taken. SLHS Value File Courts have recognized necessity defenses in a wide range of cases
John Alan Cohan, STETSON LAW REVIEW, Spring 2006, p. 906 English and American courts have long recognized the defense of necessity. Historically, courts have applied...
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- Fall '13