Suicide Supplement - How Much Can Consent Justify? Can it...

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How Much Can Consent Justify? Can it justify a right to commit suicide? Recall the Autonomy (Will) Theory of Contract. This theory asserts that: Autonomy has overriding value Fairness, welfare of individual chooser cannot void a voluntary contract Consent can therefore make any contractual terms valid Will Theory of Contract would therefore support: Contracts into slavery As long as they are voluntary. Sale of any individual rights to others For example, contracts in which your employer demands that you give up your freedom of speech and association in return for a job. Quid pro quo sexual harrassment This occurs when an employer demands submission to his or her sexual advances from an employee as a condition of employment, promotion, or enjoyment of other conditions of work. The will theory of contract, precisely by granting individuals sweeping rights to give up their fundamental rights, opens them up to exploitation by those who demand extreme sacrifices in return for subsistence, a job, or other ordinary goods. Many people find this feature of the theory disturbing. On the other hand, others argue that people should be entitled to alienate any of their rights: shouldn't it be up to them to decide how much value they place on their rights? Thus, we must ask: is this doctrine disturbing or liberating? Why Accept the Will Theory of Contract? Two main arguments have been offered in favor of the Will theory of contract: 1. The Subjective Theory of Value defense . According to the subjective theory of value, the value of anything to a person = the value that person autonomously sets upon it. It follows that the individual's free contractual choices reflect the value of things to her. Add to this doctrine the claim that we should respect the value individuals ascribe to things. It follows that we should respect (enforce) the terms of any voluntary contract between consenting adults, (so long as the contract does not harm people not a party to the contract). Problem: can't individuals be mistaken about their own interests, values? The subjective theory of value is a problematic basis upon which to rest a defense of the will theory of contract, however. For it is evident that people can be imprudent
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and mistaken about where their interests lie. For example, most people lack the medical knowledge to properly medicate themselves. If there were a free market in drugs, (no prescription required) people would choose to medicate themselves in ways that would make them sicker than before. In view of this difficulty, others defend the will theory of contract by appealing to the principle of: 2. Self-Ownership : people have property in themselves and their bodies.
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This note was uploaded on 01/15/2012 for the course PHIL 359 taught by Professor Anderson during the Fall '09 term at University of Michigan.

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Suicide Supplement - How Much Can Consent Justify? Can it...

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