Note for PHIL 164 at UMass
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Date Created: 02/06/15
Medical Ethics 030309 Phil 1643 Spring 09 l Instructor Kristoffer Ahlstrom leayrtmpyzarumamedu l httppeopleumassedukahlstro164 UNIVERSALIZATION Richard Hare is concerned with making moral decisions about the fates of disabled children What he wants to claim is that such decisions must be made by taking everyone affected in account Some typical candidates are the child itself the parents the doctor the nurses the other patients etc You might of course ask My everyone should be taken into account Here Hare appeals to what he takes to be an in trinsic feature of moral language namely that it is what he in other places has called univerxaz39gabe What does this mean Take an example 1 Murder is wrong What does it mean to say that murder is wrong Here are a couple of things it does no mean 2 Murdering me is wrong ur er1n m aim is wron 3 M cl 39g yf 39ly39 g ur er1n an one w1 aname at starts w1 a is wron 4 M cl 39 g y 39th th 39th P g No what it means is that murdering degeneis wrong That is when we claim for example that murder is wrong we commit ourselves not to a particular but to a emz39vema claim We re committing ourselves to a claim that is blind with respect to who is the perpetrator and who is the victim ANDREW So ifmaking a moral claim means making a universal claim it goes without saying that we cannot make any arbitrary exceptions to our moral judgments everyone affected must be taken into consideration So let s consider the particular kind of case that Hare discusses A couple gives birth to a severely handicapped baby It had a substantial chance of survival given a surgical proce7 dure but even if it survived it had a large chance ofbeing severely handicapped So they didn t operate and what we now have is not that child but another child Andrew who was born two years later At this point the question is not what they should do everything is already done Rather the question is What could they have done at the point where the handicapped child was born particularly if they wanted to take everyone affected into consideration The Pareem Perhaps raising a handicapped child would make for a harder life for the parents than raising a healthy child This suggests that as far as the parents are concerned doing what they did was the best thing to do But of course the other parties must be taken into consideration too Andrew We are assuming that Andrew exists only because the couple let the handicapped child die Moreover uni like the handicapped child Andrew has good prospects for living a normal and reasonably happy life This seems to suggest that the parents did the right thing as far as Andrew s interests are concerned But other parties must be taken into consideration too The Handimpped Child The handicapped child got the short end of the stick in the scenario imagined If the par ent s had opted for operation he would have gone on a live a life that might not have been as good as Andrew si assuming that handicaps make your life worseibut still worth living we re assuming So here s what the situation looks like for everyone The Parents Andrew The Handicapped Child Operation Bad Bad Good No operation Good Good Bad So if Hare is right in that everyone s interests must be taken into account it does seem that the parents did the right thing not going ahead with the operation led to a preponderance ofgood for a preponderance of people POSSIBLE PEOPLE At the same time it is not so clear how this line of reasoning provides any form ofmoral guidance After all remember that the above scenario is bookuord looking in that it has us ask a moral question from the privileged position ofhindi sight Running through a similar line of reasoning with respect to the fnlnre seems much harder one reason being that it s not clear exactly who will be affected Think about it A family has a handicapped child and can go ahead with the operation to save the child or not Whose interests should be factored into the decision that they make Their own for sure And those of the handicapped child But the fnlnre child It s not so clear that there is such a thing as a future child yet if anything there seems to be millions ofpolentio future children corresponding to the millions of combinations of eggs and sperms that may reach syngarny over the next coui ple ofyears of the couple s life But when we are weighing interests in the way that Hare wants us to we are not weigh ing the interests of possible but ofportz39morpeople The problem just is that the only particular people that are around at this point are the parents and the handicapped child which gives us the following table The Parents The Handicapped Child Operation Bad Good No opemlz39on Good Bad But clearly this doesn t give us any guidance it merely highlights again the dilemma WEIGHING CONCERNS In this respect it does not seem that Hare is really helping us out Sure we should factor in everyone affected but then what This doesn t seem to solve the dilemma It just seems to brings us back to the same question we have had to ask several times at this point When making decisions about life and death what constitutes a grave concern and what constitutes a concern that may be overridden Hare does say something about this however When I said that equal consideration ought to be given to all the interests affected I did not mean that we should treat as equal the interest of the mother in continuing to live and that of the doctor in not being got out of bed in the middle of the night What this suggests is that the above tables are a bit to crude Concerns need to be weighted by the extent to which they are grave or trivial In other words the table would need to look something like this The Parents The Handicapped Child Net goodbad Operolion Bad to degree a Good to degree 1 o 7 o No operation Good to degree a Bad to degree d of d So now the questions we have to ask are the following 7 How bad is having a handicapped child for the parents a rather than having another possibly healthy child later a 7 How bad is it for the child to live with its handicap 1 as opposed to being dead
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