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A Moral Issue of Providing Medical Care for Enemy Combatants

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Humanitarian conventions allow for the provision of care for enemy combatants, especially those that are dying. Similarly, the United States Code also explicitly excludes the provision of medicine from a list of prohibited services to terrorists, meaning that medical services are legally allowed. In defense of this permission, I would stress out that it would be, in fact, morally acceptable for a doctor to provide medical assistance to a terrorist in critical condition.

This claim arises from the argument that preserving the life of the terrorist merits the act of providing medical assistance its moral acceptability. This stands on two premises. The first states that for a person in critical condition, there are only two possible outcomes – live or die – which is already an unarguably obvious fact – that a dying patient either stays alive or dies. Whichever happen will depend on whether the doctor is able to provide medicine or not. The doctor may opt for some chance for the patient to live (by giving help) than for none at all (by not giving help).

The significance of the patient’s life is explained in the second premise, which posits that the preservation of life is to be desired. This is because to live is permitted by the natural order of living beings. Natural law posits that this natural order has to be preserved, and thus a person should be allowed to live and to possess life. This means that, by nature, people are meant to keep living, such that the only natural death is free of external unnatural factors.

The most apparent objection to the claim that providing medical assistance to a terrorist is morally acceptable is that a terrorist endangers the lives of several others. Simply put it: because a terrorist put others’ lives at risk, his or her life should not be preserved. This opposition carries the classical utilitarian view that the health or even the life of one must be forfeited for the security of many. A utilitarian objection would assert that, instead, the moral decision would be to not provide medical assistance to a terrorist because overall security results in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Further, if a doctor’s concern is to preserve life, he or she should not allow the terrorist to live in order to preserve the lives of the people whom the terrorist may harm.

In response to this opposition, I propound that the forfeiture of one life for the sake of others cannot be morally justifiable. An outcome (e.g. preserving life) cannot justify an act which is its moral opposite (e.g. taking or depriving of life).

In view of this, I must shed light on the belief that morality is binary. This means that an act is either morally acceptable or morally unacceptable. Under this view, an acceptable act is one that does not violate a moral code in any way, whereas a morally unacceptable act is one that violates a moral code at least in the slightest way. Due to this binary nature, since the means of forfeiting the terrorist’s life is not morally acceptable, then the act of preserving the lives and security of others by using such means cannot be acceptable.

Having considered the premises that there are only two possible outcomes and that the preservation of life must be achieved, I conclude that the act that allows for a person to live is the moral act. This outcome of preserving life can only be achieved if the doctor provides the needed medical assistance. Therefore, in view of the foregoing, I conclude that a doctor performs a morally acceptable act when he or she provides medical help to a terrorist.

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A Moral Issue Of Providing Medical Care For Enemy Combatants. (2019, July 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 25, 2022, from
“A Moral Issue Of Providing Medical Care For Enemy Combatants.” GradesFixer, 10 Jul. 2019,
A Moral Issue Of Providing Medical Care For Enemy Combatants. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jan. 2022].
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