With JL, let me heartily recommend my friend Helen Rittelmeyer’s initial sketch of a bioethics that “sees love, not autonomy, as the basis of human dignity”. It’s a challenging read, but well worth the work. Perhaps due to what I’ve been blogging about of late, this paragraph was probably my favorite:
There is a strong temptation to say, very simply, that these sorts of decisions are family affairs and none of the public’s business. However, the answer is not as simple as recognizing a family’s right to privacy, as the case of elective abortion makes clear. The decision to carry a disabled child to term means something very different depending on how ordinary or extraordinary the decision is. The public’s attitude towards children with Down Syndrome is not the same when 15 percent of women choose to abort such children as when 90 percent do. (The exact figure in the United States is 91 percent.) If elective abortion continues to be the overwhelming norm, the child’s disability will come to be seen as something the mother brought upon herself rather than as something she simply accepted. The assumption will be that no normal woman would have borne the child since, after all, normal women don’t. This same shift—from seeing disability as a family’s fate to seeing it as a self-inflicted burden—will naturally follow if more quadriplegics follow the example of Daniel James, the British rugby player who ended his life at the Swiss clinic Dignitas after an injury left him paralyzed. (Dignitas has ended the lives of more than a hundred Britons since it opened ten years ago, and, in that time, not a single spouse, relative, or friend has been prosecuted for the legal crime of assisting them.) The difference between ordinary and extraordinary measures is an important moral one; it determines the moral—and therefore legal—expectations we have of our neighbors and ourselves. These private decisions have public consequences.
Read the whole thing.