Infants and Consent Notes for November 14

Main points

OK, so that was our most heated discussion, pushing the great Nussbaum debate out of first place.

Menzel points out that there are some kinds of care for infants that seem like good candidates for rationing, that is, denying care that would be beneficial to the recipient.** Note: not the same as denying care for their own good. But a necessary condition for doing that cannot be met for infants: consent. So he denies that consent is necessary for denying care to infants on the grounds that they don’t have inherent rights.

I ended by pointing out that the derived rights that Menzel attributes to infants seem to render the discussion of their inherent rights moot. We have to ask what rights we attribute to them. Going by our behavior, the answer appears to include the right to health care.

Stout vs. world

In saying that human infants have derived rights, Menzel treats them like non-human animals. We think that these animals deserve humane treatment, but we don’t think they deserve the kind of treatment that people get.†† Kari proposed the analogy; I pinched it.

Michael Stout defended Menzel’s position (strictly speaking, he went further than Menzel). The rest of the room piled on.

Here is my contribution to the excellent discussion that we had. Those who opposed Michael S’s arguments usually did so on grounds that would also apply to abortions. For instance, if you think it is callous to kill a child with a severe birth defect, on the face of it, you should think the same thing about aborting a fetus with the same defect.

We currently allow the latter, though not the former.

So why no drastic social effects? Or, why no severe moral criticism?

Or, you may say, the existence of abortion for those reasons is leading to drastic social effects or it is a severe moral wrong.

All I’m saying is that you face a choice. Either distinguish the cases or say the same thing about both. Those of us who are pro-choice will find either one difficult.

This page was written by Eleanor Brown and Michael Green for Freedom, Markets, and Well-Being, PPE 160, Fall 2007.
Freedom, Markets, and Well-Being