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Pro MAID: Personal autonomy
But, and this often gets neglected, the freedom to exercise one's autonomy is not absolute. For example, I enjoy smoking a pipe. But it turns out that I do not have the freedom to smoke my pipe in my local pub (at least not in Canada). Also, I do not have the freedom to drink beer while I drive my car. Also, I do not have the freedom to drive my car on the sidewalk. Nor do I have the freedom to swing my fist without regard for the tips of other people's noses.
In other words, although personal autonomy is important, the individual does not live in a social vacuum. In public policy matters we should think about the individual's freedom AND the possible consequences—possible negative consequences—for our neighbors, that is, for our larger society (more on MAID's possible negative consequences later).
At one of the universities I attended (not too many years ago), I worked as a teaching assistant in an ethics course for a fellow doctoral student who told the class (a) he had advised his roommate that suicide was an option as a solution to the roommate's problems and (b) subsequently the roommate committed suicide. My fellow doctoral student displayed no qualms about the advice. Nor did most of the students in the ethics course. Some of those students planned to become doctors and lawyers.
Possible consequence 5: Slippery slope.
Let's say that I approach my college president and propose that our school should make a policy of giving philosophy students the right to free tuition if they choose to accept it. My reason: philosophy students are people who must think very hard and aren’t guaranteed jobs after graduation. There would be a slippery slope here, for sure!
Once the rest of the student body heard about this policy, students would appeal to a principle of fairness (and would be motivated by greed perhaps) and would argue that all students should receive free tuition, not just philosophy students. Why? Because all students must think very hard and none are guaranteed jobs.
In other words, if thinking hard and having no guarantee of a job after graduation are sufficient grounds for a student to receive free tuition, then whether a student is taking anthropology, business, history, philosophy, psychology—or whatever—doesn’t make a relevant difference. The principle of fairness is fundamental, and the differences between academic disciplines, though real, are incidental. Fairness demands consistency.
Thus, if my college makes a policy (the legal bit of the legal-logical slippery slope) that gives philosophy students free tuition on the basis of hard thinking and lack of a job guarantee, then, in the name of fairness and consistency (the logical bit of the legal-logical slippery slope), the college should ensure that all students receive free tuition.
If my boss doesn't want to be unfair or inconsistent (and doesn't want our university to go broke), then he shouldn't give philosophy students the proposed deal.
Our lesson: The above non-fallacious, logical-legal slippery slope argument ensues because the reason behind my proposal justifies much more than intended.
In other words, legal acceptance of MAID puts gobs of logical-legal grease onto the path that leads to killing as a solution to suffering. The result: eliminating sufferers becomes equated with eliminating suffering, and legality becomes an accomplice to normalization of practice.
○ Margaret A. Somerville, “Killing as Kindness: The Problem of Dealing with Suffering and Death in Secular Society”