Philippa Foot on the Fatal Sequence to Abortion

1425 WordsFeb 21, 20186 Pages
Philippa Foot justifies in her essay that there is a distinction between doing and allowing that makes one impermissible and the other not, respectively. This distinction is explained through terms of agency and types of rights. With any event, the person that bring about the harm is considered to be the agent and if the harm interferes with another person’s right to life then the action of the agent is impermissible. In identifying the harm encountered by a person, we need to be able to determine how an agent is related to the harm; whether by initiating new sequence or letting the existing sequence run its course. Essentially as a response to Thomson’s argument on abortion, Foot uses her explanation of doing and allowing to justify that abortion is impermissible since the agent of the event is initiating the fatal sequence. First, the ideas of agency proposed by Foot are explained as followed. In order to identify the person who is responsible for a death, we need to examine the cause of that death. The person that initiates the cause, or the fatal sequence, is considered to be the agent of this death. To better understand the term agency, let’s consider Foot’s scenario of where two enemies are after a man. Enemy A drills a hole in the man’s water barrel, while enemy B poisons the water. The man may die from thirst or from the poisoned water. If the man dies due to the lack of water, enemy A is responsible for that man’s death and it would make him the agent of the

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