Disclaimer: There’s a yucky photo in this post and reference to some yucky stuff so if you keep reading, don’t complain about the yucky.
With the murder of Dr. Tiller, the whole abortion debate has once again gained a spark of life. I don’t want to debate abortion, though, because we’ve heard all the arguments back and forth from both sides for what seems like forever now.
As we know, the essence of the pro-choice side is that a woman has the right to make decisions involving her own body. My question then is, do all competent, consenting adults have the right to make any decision they want about their own body? And, do they have the right to expect others to assist with that decision? Because in most cases people will need help.
Suicide for instance. Do people have the right to take their own life? Is it okay that they ask someone – a doctor, a family member, a friend – to help them if they are no longer able to do the deed themselves?
If a loved one was terminally ill and asked you to help them end it all, would you do so unhesitantly? Unless you’ve actually been in that situation, it’s difficult to fathom what an enormous task that would be. You’ll always wonder if the loved one had absolutely no hope. You always hear of miracle recoveries, new treatments. You’ll always wonder, what if? And you’ll always think of yourself as someone who has taken a human life. That’s a heavy burden.
Remember that story about Armin Meiwes and Jürgen Brandes? The bisexual cannibals who hooked up on the internet’s Cannibal Café? Armin was looking for a nice young man to kill and eat and Jürgen was chosen out of all the other applicants.
Germany had a hell of a time figuring out how to charge Armin. Neither suicide, assisted suicide nor cannibalism is illegal in Germany. And, Armin had documented the entire selection process, showing how other applicants were turned down or how he made no attempt to persuade those who declined. He videotaped Jürgen talking to him about how he would enjoy being killed and eaten. (I won’t even go into the part where the two of them hacked off Jürgen’s penis, fried it up and ate bits of it together. [It was overcooked, so not very palatable apparently])
So, okay, that’s an extreme example and an argument could be made that perhaps Jürgen was not quite in his right mind and hadn’t considered all the options and consequences/impacts of his decision when he thought it would be a fun thing to do.
But the same argument could be made for anyone contemplating suicide and maybe even for anyone contemplating abortion. Or people who have 8 kids at once, or who do gruesome things to themselves with plastic surgery or who do stuff like this to themselves.
What about a patient’s right to refuse medical treatment? This is a real dilemma for doctors, especially when the patient refuses potentially life-saving treatment. The doctor will try to persuade the patient and very often will administer treatment against the wishes of the patient.
Kant believed that a human beings capacity for self-determination is all-important; that autonomy of the will is the very essence of being human. Most of our ideals about humans as autonomous beings come from the writings of Kant.
Do you believe in absolute autonomy or in a more holistic approach – a balancing and weighing between autonomy and the greater moral good; taking into account the possible incompetency of the individual to make a rational decision? And who decides on the competency?
Either approach could potentially lead to the proverbial slippery slope.
 They managed to find something to convict Armin of eventually and he’s serving a life sentence. He is now vegetarian and an active member of the Green Party. Seriously, this is, bar none, the craziest story I’ve ever heard in my life.