Reasoning about a Contemporary Ethical Issue After reading Barry Yeoman’s “surgical strike” for about three times, I found myself having an ethical debate all by myself. The ethical dilemma in this article poses the question “is it immoral or ethically wrong to give drug addicts $200 in exchange for them to be sterilized or undergo long-term contraception? ” In my opinion, this question is rather a tough one and ought to undergo thorough consideration.
The society are stakeholders in this dilemma due to the fact that the two most important stakeholders; the unborn children of these drug addicts and the drug addicts themselves are part of the society at large. The society would be affected by the actions of these drug addicts and their decisions as well. The unborn children are the helpless ones who are going to most likely suffer the consequences of these addict’s aversive ways. Be it being born with drugs in their systems already or born knowing that they are children of drug addicts or not being born at all.
From my perspective, I see it as a win-lose situation for the society, drug addicts, and the unborn children of these drug addicts. Everybody wins and everybody loses all at the same time. My reason being that the society wins because when a drug addict is sterilized, the burden of having a child born with drugs in his or her system who may later become a drug addict themselves and a nuisance to the society at large decreases. But, the society loses because they lose the opportunity to reproduce again which is a fortunate and great thing.
On the other hand, they win because they have avoided giving birth to kids they will be unable to properly care for. Lastly, it is a win situation for the kids because they won’t be born with the possibility of having drugs in their system and also live life knowing that they are children of drug addicts. But, at the same time, these unborn kids lose because they deserve to be born to whomever and when these drug addicts get sterilized, these kids won’t be given the opportunity to live at all.
If found in this kind of dilemma, a Kantian would without a doubt act according to the categorical imperative which includes the first and second formulations. According to Mackinnon, the first formulation says “act only on that maxim that you can will as a universal law”. Page 78. While the second form states that “always treat humanity, whether in your person or that of another, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end”. Page 79. Basically, these formulations state that one ought to follow laws that are universally applicable and used.
Also, that one should treat everyone as an end. Never as a means and not use them to achieve our personal interest and/or goals. Therefore, from a Kantian’s perspective, it will be immoral to offer $200 to a drug addict who agrees to be sterilized or under go long term contraception. A Kantian would most likely argue that the sterilizing of drug addicted people cannot be willed as a universal law and is not applicable to everyone because that would mean all kinds of drug addicts whether mild or heavy drug addicts in general and everywhere can and should be sterilized.
A Kantian will take note that there are various kinds of addicts and rationally, one solution cannot possibly be applicable to all kinds of addicts. Therefore, it is immoral. Also, a Kantian would say that in sterilizing these addicts, the society will be doing so in other to satisfy their own interest which is to get rid of the chances of having possible future drug addicts loose in the community. And this, according to the second formulation is using them as a means to an end.
From a Kantian’s point of view, the moral course of action to take will be to help out the addicts themselves and help them recover or at least convince them to get serious help and to also avoid reproducing. A Kantian theorist would tell us to change our motives because without the right motive to want to actually help these drug addicts, then we have failed in having goodwill. Our moral obligation in this kind of situation according to a Kantian theorist would be to help out the addicts the best way we can without sterilizing them in exchange for $200.
Whether we want to or not and whether it fulfills our goals and desires or not. A utilitarian on the other hand, who believes that “the morally best (or better) alternative is that which produces the greatest (or greater) net utility, where net utility is defined in terms of happiness or pleasure” (Mackinnon page 54) would do whatever yields the greatest amount of happiness in total. Due to the fact that a utilitarian is also a onsequentialist, they will carefully analyze the likely or possible consequences and choose whichever one brings about the greatest amount of happiness. A utilitarian will not only put into consideration the result or consequence that brings about the greatest amount of happiness for the most people but, also the result that brings about the greatest amount of happiness for the most people. Therefore, a utilitarian would applaud the originator of the non-profit organization.
Because this is the only line of action that yields the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. To a utilitarian, when one sterilizes a drug addict, one is getting rid of the chances of having more drug addicts in the future which in turn is bad for the society in general and since the number of people in the society is more than the number of drug addicts in the society, this makes the society, which is the majority- happy. This action, according to the utilitarian is the morally right thing to do.
In this kind of situation, though I am not particularly a Kantian, I believe that the morally right thing to do in this situation is to find another solution rather than this one being used. I believe that addicts vary and both mild and heavy addicts are not in the right state to make decisions like this. I understand where the utilitarian is coming from but I feel that one is just playing on their vulnerability when it comes to drugs and it is wrong. The best course of action is finding and exploring the best solutions in solving this problem and disease called drug addiction.