Justified Homicide

I recently did a justice course online which is run by Michael Sandel. On of the cases was The Queen vs Dudley and Stephens (1884), where two men on a lifeboat kill the third person in order to survive themselves. They were later found to be guilty. However, the case cites some examples of justified homicide:

…in the case often put by casuists, of two drowning men on a plank large enough to support one only, and one thrusting the other off, the survivor could not be subjected to legal punishment. In the American case of The United States v. Holmes, the proposition that a passenger on board a vessel may be thrown overboard to save the others is sanctioned.


I was just wondering, are these two cases in accordance with moral law? Or do they violate Church teaching?

The Church teaching is clear. You cannot do an evil to achieve a good. Therefore two men cannot kill a third man in order to survive.


Is that true only as long as the third man is not a threat? Where does self-defense come in?

Two men can kill a third man in order to survive if the third man is trying to murder them, right?

I guess killing innocent people is where there is no wiggle room.

Yes to all of the above. :thumbsup:

This violates Church law. No true good can come from a bad human action.

So if two men are on a plank which can only support one person, the only way for one to survive is for the other to sacrifice himself? I can believe that.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.