How do we know which action to look at?

We know that one cannot commit evil with the intention of a good outcome.
We also know an evil outcome from a good action can be tolerated.
But how do we determine the act from the outcome?

Example: A person gives a kidney to a family member on dialysis.
Note: I am not saying organ transplants are immoral as 2296 approves them.

The approving way of looking at it is.

*Good act: Giving a dialysis patient a kidney.
Tolerable result: Taking a kidney from another person. (With consent.) *

But how do we know to look at it that way instead of

Evil act: Mutilation by taking a kidney from someone.
Good intention: Getting a kidney for a dialysis patient.

?

Or how about the case of a woman with multiple babies and a near certain chance they’d die before viability of any of the babies.
Note: I know abortion is wrong.

How do we know to look at it as

Evil act: Killing an innocent
Good intention: Saving the mother

instead of

Good act: Removing a baby so that the mother can carry the remaining babies.
Tolerable result: A baby will die from removal.

?

Basically, I’m trying to figure out the method used to discern whether or not a situation is an evil act with a good intention or a good act with an undesired, but tolerable, evil side affect. This is causing me some confusion.

Donating a kidney, while a dangerous procedure, is not inherently immoral.

The deliberate killing of innocent children is inherently immoral. The possibility that a child’s intra-uterine siblings might have an improved medical prognosis would not justify abortions.

A good act is one which is in conformity to the eternal law, the commandments of God such as the 10 commandments, and the word of God. An evil or sinful act is one which is contrary to the eternal law and the commandments of God. So the method used to discern whether a given act is good or bad is to discern whether a given act is in conformity with right reason and the eternal law such as the commandments of God or whether a given act is contrary to the eternal law and the commandments of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the 10 commandments and many of the human actions that fall under the 10 commandments and whether they are good or bad. Refer also to the article in the CCC titled ‘The Morality of Human Acts’ which lays down the principles and sources for the morality of human acts.

There must be greater good than evil in the outcome for the evil to be acceptable. Otherwise, the act is immoral.

But how do we determine the act from the outcome?

The “act itself” is not determined from the outcome.

Example: A person gives a kidney to a family member on dialysis.

The approving way of looking at it is.

Intention: Save/Improve the life of person with no kidneys.
*Good act: Giving a dialysis patient a kidney.
Tolerable result: -]Taking/-] Loss of a kidney from another person. (With consent.) *
Other result: One life saved or greatly improved.

But how do we know to look at it that way instead of

Evil act: Mutilation by taking a kidney from someone.
Good intention: Getting a kidney for a dialysis patient.
?

On what grounds would one conclude that the surgical act is mutilation? When a person in a white coat, in an operating theatre injects a drug which stops the heart of the person on the table, is this an act of murder, or an act preparatory to a heart transplant? We can’t know by hearing the story - but the person doing the injection knows - he could choose murder, or he could choose to pursue a life-saving operation.

Note: Organ donation is not the same act as (direct) mutilation. The one is an act of charity, and act of sacrifice, the other an assault on the body. Watching a movie of the organ removal - you could not for certain say whether this is organ donation or mutilation. But those ‘acting’ know what they do.

FYI - Moral theologians (unanimously) held at one time that organ donation was immoral because it violated the principle of totality. This began to change around the time of the first Kidney transplant (1954). See the attached pdf document for more history.

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