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Lecture 21

PHL281H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 21: Day Parole, Extenuating Circumstances, Robert Latimer

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Donald Ainslie

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016
The Not-Yet and Never- Competent
-A newborn in need of a surgery to repair an intestinal blockage: Many infants with
down syndrome have this problem. Rather than doing this fairly standard surgery,
some parents decided to simply let the babies die.
-Religious cases, e.g. Ian Lundman: Ian was an 11-year-old Minnesota Christian
Scientist with diabetes. His mother relied on faith healers rather than medical
practitioners, which led to his death. His mother and the local church were found
liable in the sense of a Tort.
-First Nations, e.g. Makayla Sault: 11-year-old New Credit First Nation. She was
diagnosed with leukaemia, but she refused chemotherapy (with a very high rate of
success) for alternative treatment in Florida. She died in January 2015.
The rhetoric of the case was sometimes around alternative medicine and First
Nations medicine. This wasn’t really relevant as the treatment sought was not a
traditional indigenous healing.
-Deaf parents would want their child to be “Deaf,” e.g. Bonnie Poitras Tucker: Some
Deaf parents want their children to be Deaf like them and to join their Deaf
community. They see their disability as a language and a culture. This is contrary to
medical science, which can now intervene and implant a cochlear implant that allows
people to hear. This is best done when you are very young.
-Severe disabled child who was never competent, e.g. Tracy Latimer: She was a 12-
year-old with severe cerebral palsy and quadriplegia. She had the mental capacity of
an infant and she was completely dependent on her parents. Her father killed her
when he was unwilling to allow her to undergo another surgery. He argued that it was
a case of mercy. Could there be such a thing as mercy killing in these cases?
Proxy Decision Making
-In the case of formerly competent, the proxy can appeal to the patients’ values to
make decisions on their behalf.
-The not-yet competent have not yet developed the capacities that embody autonomy;
the never competent will never do so.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Who should decide for them? How should they decide?
-Usually biological parents, though sometimes adoptive
-They have an obligation to educate their children, including moral education.
-Parents have a right to inculcate their values with their own values—albeit with
exceptions. These values are often religious, moral (e.g. some parents with
emphasize creativity and free expression), etc. The question is, why?
Justified Paternalism
-The word paternalism is used often when we speak of parents and their children.
Parents are paternalistic with their children, and indeed they should be. Paternalism is
can be a problem, e.g. if a parent sells his child to the sex trade. It can be justified,
-It is justified when parents are acting in the best interests of their children.
-Which interests should we be referencing?
Meaningfulness: There are interests that speak to what it means to have a
meaningful life. These are the crux of our moral self-understanding. What is it that
makes for a life worth-living? We recognize that these are essentially contestable.
In a liberal society, we try to tolerate differences on matters of these compressive
doctrines that each have their own m-interests.
-It is hard to exactly pin down the meaningfulness interests of children: children
don’t usually have a coherent view as to what makes life meaningful.
The Right to an “Open Future”
-Some philosophers, e.g. Joel Feinburg, argue for an “open future.” That is, parents
are to ensure that children develop the capacities that define autonomy, i.e. the
capacity to determine your life according to your own value.
Is this a right?
-Against whom? Presumably against the parents.
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