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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Really, Really Late-Term Abortions...

now legal in Holland.

19 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:09 AM

    In an early episode of South Park, Cartman's mom tried to get a fortieth trimester abortion for her eight year old.

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  2. Actually I think the Dutch have got this one about right.

    It is a very hard area but if you put to one side resource issues, it comes down to a question of consent. We all surely agree as libertarians that an adult is entitled to end his own life and that he ought to be able to engage others to assist him in that.

    The problems arise in those cases where actual informed consent or decision making are lacking. I would say that in such cases, the legal guardians ought to be able to make decisions about life and death, if it is overwhelmingly likely that the subject would have made the same decision. And cases of unbearable suffering are surely paradigm examples.

    Julius

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  3. Julius,

    I think this argument has at least one hidden step. I suggest that for it to work you need something like:

    1) Libertarians should reject legal restrictions on ending one's own life by one's free choice.
    2) Therefore, libertarians should believe it is a positive good to end one's own life whenever one deems it not worth living.
    3) Therefore, that good should be extended to those who cannot freely choose it whenever their legal guardians would freely choose it for themselves.

    But 2) does not follow from 1) at all. If someone holds, for instance, that suicide should be legal but is always a stupid choice, then they can quite consistently conclude, "Yes, let people make that stupid choiice for themselves, but never, heaven forbid, for someone else who cannot!"

    Furthermore, given the likelihood for abuse in being able to legally declare and act on "My X would really want to die" when what is actually going on is, "I'd really like X out of my hair -- X is just ruining my nightlife!", it seems to me the prudent position is to be very conservative on this kind of issue.

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  4. I am going to consult some others on this one and get back to you!

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  5. An analogy: Let's say someone is a sado-masochist: should they be able to decide that their infant, who can't speak, would simply love to be tied in leather and whipped, and then have intercourse?

    I fully support the adult's right to choose this for him/herself, but not for anyone else!

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  6. Anonymous9:04 PM

    But why should a child get to interfere with the pleasure of its parent? Isn't this the the crux of the proAbortion argument, that people are too concerned with their own well-being to be concerend with offspring?

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  7. Gene, the case you posit is irrelevant to the debate, as I premised my argument with the qualification:

    "if it is overwhelmingly likely that the subject would have made the same decision."

    This also meets your (correct) observation that prudence is called for. It will only be in clear cases that the test will be met, so there is no danger of the floodgates opening.

    I suppose you might say that my test is philosphically incoherent in the case of a young child because it is not clear what it means to say "the subject would have made the same decision" where the subject has not yet formed the relevant capacity and has never had it.

    But I can re-state the test in a way that meets the objection - viz - "It is overwhelmingly likely that the subject would choose unconsciousness in preference to continued suffering?"

    If the answer is yes and there is no prospect of the suffering ceasing, then it surely follows that euthanasia represents the best that the parents or guardians can do in the circumstances to further the interests of the subject, as best one can reflect them.

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  8. Making a baby suffer and forcing the parents to suffer watching their baby suffer, while third parties decide what is right and wrong according to their own personal needs is insufferable.

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  9. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Until these damn babies get some independence, we should throw them into dickensian orphanages/workhouses. That will learn 'em to grow up quicker!

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  10. "But I can re-state the test in a way that meets the objection - viz - 'It is overwhelmingly likely that the subject would choose unconsciousness in preference to continued suffering?'"

    And there you're argument ceases to have anything to do with libertarianism, and turns to custom -- for whether or not it is "overwhelmingly likely" that a person will choose to endure condition X is entirely a cultural matter -- the answer would have been quite different in Holland in 1200 than in 2000. And it says this debate is over cultural values, not over libertarian principles.

    Margaret: What about parents who see their child "suffering" from a cold, and are tired of suffering along with him? Should they be able to slit their child's throat? Are you going to be one of the "intolerable" "third-party" busy-bodies you deride who would forbid this? If not, on what principle?

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  11. I'm one of those nutjobs who thinks there is no solution to the problem of babies being unable to defend or speak up for themselves. Maybe technology will solve that in the distant future. Maybe never. So what does one do instead until then? Trust the parents or trust the State to do better by the child? The child has to be somebody's responsibility. And where does the State derive this right to supersede the parents in the question of the well-being of the child. If the State can derive that right to prevent euthanasia, why would it stop there? Why not agree that the State can also tell you how to treat that cold (with AIDS drugs perhaps) or where the child should live or what he should learn, ad infinitum. Hell, why trust any parent with any child since we assume the worst anyway? Let the State raise them.

    Then there's the problem of what to do with the saved/stolen (depends on your point of view) children. You save the snot nosed kid but where are you going to place him now? Are you going to be responsible until he's only enough to speak for himself. Then what if he says to you, "well, I was repeatedly molested in the home you placed me in. You have to pay me for my suffering there. If it weren't for you, I'd have been better off." Are you going to allow yourself to be punished for that? You spoke for the child and you were wrong. Why should you not have to pay for your mistake? The child did.

    I think it's best to let the parents have whatever say they want. They want to euthanize a sick child, fine. If they want to raise a child the State would have euthanized that's also fine. Mistakes will be made. They'll be made anyway, so why give the State an in on parental responsibility? I thought we wanted them out---except in this case? It doesn't work that way. Either we trust individuals or we don't.

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  12. Margaret, this is a false dichotomy: the State does it, or anything goes. The improperly excluded middle is that there can be stateless law, and I would expect it would protect children just as well as the retarded, the comatose, and fully cognizant adults.

    In the meantime, the State happens to be the primary source of law, so it might as well have the best laws possible. And those laws will, for instance, prevent parents from prostituting their eight-year-old.

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  13. Every time you read "State" in my post, switch it for "the body that enforces the Law in a Stateless society" or what have you. Is it any different? We're still presuming that this entity is better than the average parent at addressing their child's needs and therefore that this entity supersedes the average parent. Where exactly do you stop the slippery slope and why would you expect this entity to be better than the parents anyway? Is Law a tool for us to make our lives/society better or are we just hoping to use it as an ubermommy to stop people whose actions we don't like?

    We also have to address the fact that there's no liability involved for the busy-bodies. The cost of meddlesomeness is so small across society that it's reduced to almost zero, which is why we have so many busy-body statists now. Opening up "saviors" to costs might make for somewhat of a solution if you are really afraid that some parents might be jerks. That way the majority of normal parents don't have to fear "the entity" intruding into their personal business.

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