Hubey on Rachels 5/3/09 These examples are from a book by Rachels: The Elements of Moral Philoso- phy (Paperback) by James Rachels. Some of the sentences are directly from the book. Others are my re-statements. Others are my comments (usually in ellipses or brackets). (H.M. Hubey) Rachels on Minimum Conception of Morality Example A: Baby Theresa (BT) Theresa Ann Campo Pearson, an anencephalic infant known to the public as "Baby Theresa".. Anencephaly is among the worst congenital disorders, sometimes referred to as "babies without brains" but it is not accurate. Important parts of the brain - the cerebrum and cerebellum- are missing, as well as the top of the skull. There is a brain-stem, so autonomic functions such as heartbeat and breathing are possible. Knowing BT would never have a normal life the parents volunteered her organs for transplants. Is it ethical? A1) Benefits Argument: If we can benefit someone, without harming anyone else, we ought to do so. Being alive is a benefit only if it enables you to carry on activi- ties and have thoughts, feelings, and relations with other people-in other words, if it enables you to have a life. In the absence of of such things, mere biological exist- ence is worthless. A2) We should not use People as Means: "use people" is obviously appealing, but this is a vague notion; it typically means violating their autonomy- their ability to decide for themselves how to live their own lives, according to their own desires and values. A person's autonomy may be violated through manipulation, trickery, or deceit. Autonomy is also violated when people are forced to do things against their will. But BT is not an autonomous being. When people are unable to make decisions for themselves, what do we do? (i) what would be in their own best inter- ests? (ii) if she could tell us what she wants, what would she say? A3) Wrongness of Killing: She is going to die anyway! Maybe she is already dead, e.g. brain dead. She lacks any hope for a conscious life. Hubey on Rachels 5/3/09 ----------Example B: Jodie and Mary (JM)-------------- A woman is carrying conjoined twins. Doctors tell her that one of them can live not the other. Parents decide against the operation and to allow both to die. Doctors get a court order to do the operation and save one. She lives, the other dies. Who should make the decision and what should be the decision? B1) We should save as many lives as we can: this is like the max good for max number of people. B2) Sanctity of Life: All life is precious. Religions emphasize this. In traditional ethics, the prohibition upon killing innnocent humans is said to be absolute. Doctor says that she was not killed but she died because her body cannot sustain life. Another version of this is: (a) the innocent human has no future and will die any- way; (b) she has no wish to live because she has no wishes, (c) killing the innocent human will save the lives of others, who can then go on to have good full lives. -----------------Example C: Tracy Latimer (TL)------------------ TL is a 12 yr old victim of cerebral palsy. She has the mental level of a 3-month old baby. Her father kills her. C1) Wrongness of Discriminating against the Handicapped: The president of Saskatoon Voice of People with Disabilities, who has multiple sclerosis said "Nobody has the right to decide my life is worth less than yours. That is the bottom line." Why discriminate, say, in employment? There must be a "good reason". e.g. can he do the job? is he more stupid or less industrious? Does he somehow deserve the job less? Is he less able to benefit from employment? Is there a good reason to exclude him? But TL had gone through major surgery on her back, hips, and legs and more surgery was planned. With the combination of feeding tube, rods in her back, leg cut, and bed sores, she was being tortured! C2) Slippery Slope Argument: Where do we draw the line? How about other dis- abled people? What about the elderly, the infirm, the other "useless" members of society? Abortion, in vitro fertilization, and cloning have all been opposed because of what it might lead to. Hubey on Rachels 5/3/09 =============Overall=============== These ideas arouse strong feelings. But moral judgements are different than expres- sions of personal taste. "I like coffee" does not need a reason. First, let's get the facts straight. Facts are sometimes hard to ascertain. Another problem is human prejudice. Some of the principles involved: (I) We should not use people; (II) we should not kill one person to save another; (III) we should do what will benefit the people affected by our actions; (IV) every life is sacred; (V) it is wrong to discriminate against the handicapped. Basic Rules Requirement of Impartiality: each individual's interests are equally important; from a moral point of view, there are no priviliged persons ========== Minimum Conception of Morality========= (AA) Morality is at the very least, the effort to guide one's conduct by reason--that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing--while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual who will be affected by what one does.