Medical Ethics
Michael Green
Manuel Vargas
phone, office information

03 April. The Basic Argument Against Abortion
06 April. The Extreme View
08 April. The Voluntariness Objection
13 April. Warren's criticism, more voluntariness
15 April. Fetuses aren't persons?
20 April. Does Marquis have to say contraception is wrong?
20 April. Nicole's point, one more time.
22 April. Wrapping Up

Medical Ethics: 10 April. Samaritanism and objections

Kate's point I thought Kate had a good defense of Thomson's use of analogies between the right to abortion and property rights.

Here's the objection to the analogy: property rights are weaker than the right to abortion. You can't defend your property with deadly force (typically), but deadly force is exactly what is used in abortion (necessarily, given our current technology).

But, as Kate points out, that may be OK for Thomson. Since the right to control your body is more important than the right to control your property, it makes sense that you would be allowed to use more force in the defense of your right to control your body. Nice point!

Incidentally, this is what Jesús and I were going back and forth on. He was asking why the fact that property rights are weak (such that you can't use deadly force to defend them) shows that rights to control one's body are strong (such that you can). The answer is: it doesn't show that. But that's not what Kate was trying to show; she was trying to defend a point, not trying to establish one.

Lorie's point You all didn't get to hear this, because we only talked about it after class, but it's a very interesting point. Lorie pointed out that most people decide to have abortions for different reasons than the ones Thomson appeals to in her defense of abortion. As Lorie sees it, most women choose to end their pregnancies because they aren't ready to have children, not because they want to defend their rights to control their bodies. So, why should they find Thomson's argument relevant?

I suppose Thomson would say something like this. A woman has a right to abortion by virtue of having a right to control her body. Her reasons for choosing to exercise that right are a separate issue. By analogy, you have the right to rip up your shirt, should you want to do so, because it's your property. Whether you choose to rip up your shirt or not is up to you; your reasons will presumably have little to do with the reasons why it's your property (we have property rights in general because it's important for people to be able to control material goods; you have this specific property right because you paid for the shirt; etc.).

But I have to confess feeling a little uneasy about that response. Thomson is saying we need the right to abortion in order to protect women's control over their bodies. But if that protection is being used for different purposes, it does seem fair to ask whether those other purposes are legitimate. You have the right to barbecue in your back yard. But if the only reason why you do barbecue is to annoy your neighbor, are you legitimately exercising your right?

Special relationships Sorry, I promised a discussion of this but we ran out of time. I showed that we believe there are many relationships that are (a) not fully voluntary and (b) generate special moral obligations among the people in the relationships. But is the relationship between a pregnant woman and her fetus such a relationship? Many people think it is.

Can we say exactly why that's so? Is it the biological relationship? The genetic relationship? Those don't seem right. So what is it?

Something about the mother's voluntary assumption of the risks? Then we're back to the voluntariness objection. It's a fine objection, but it's a different point than this one.

By the way, if you didn't think we spent enough time on the voluntariness objection, we'll talk about it again with Warren: it's her objection to Thomson.

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