The Defense of Necessity Considered From the Legal and Moral Points of View

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Questions concerning the scope of the defense of necessity frequently arise in a variety of legal and philosophical discussions. Professor Christie grapples with the questions raised by this defense: When can property be taken or destroyed to save human life? Must compensation always be paid? Can one destroy the property of others to save one's own property? Can one kill an innocent person to save the lives of a greater number of people? Professor Christie submits that much of the discussion of these difficult questions is too abstract and based on too cursory a review of the few legal authorities on the subject. He explores the authorities in depth, and concludes, among other things, that someone who destroys property to save human life is not generally required to pay compensation for the property destroyed, and that private individuals can never use the defense of necessity, even when multiple human lives are threatened, to justify intentionally taking innocent human life.