Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prevention Better Than Cure?

This is going to be controversial:
Addicts are being offered up to £200 cash to be sterilised so they do not give birth to drug dependent children.
The people funding this, Project Prevention, are doing so out of concern for the babies born to drug addicts but there is another aspect to the project.

There is probably a genetic basis to addiction so preventing it being passed on would be an effective means of reducing the problem in future generations but acknowledging the hereditary basis of negative traits is not considered acceptable, even though more and more human traits are found to be influenced much more by genes than the environment. So no one could propose it on that basis.

I'm not sure why pro-life groups like the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children oppose this though, it isn't as though they are aborting foetuses merely preventing conception. I don't see why it is any different from using contraception from their point of view. Surely even the broadest definition as to when a foetus becomes a child doesn't extend back before conception.


Mark Wadsworth said...

You would assume that addiction is hereditary but now I've had four kids I'm not so sure - neither of the older ones (18 and 20) smoke or drink (OK, the oldest one drinks a bit) and the younger two are pretty anti.

Matthew said...

I simply don't like the idea of bribing people who presumbly are not thinking all that clearly and are desperate for cash to do something hard to reverse (and of great importance).

Ross said...

Having children is also irreversible though.

Anonymous said...

Let me try and explain the philosophical position.

Let's start from the moral premise that people should be ends in themselves rather than means.

Eugenics is the idea that we can eliminate or alleviate social problems by selective breeding. ie there are better and worse people and we can improve the race by eliminating or avoiding the birth of the latter.

Abortion and elective sterilisation are practices common to this view. Abortion supporters often use the concept of unwanted babies creating social problem (eg Freakonomics) and the latter is self evident.

The immorality of "pre-crime" is not that the likelihood of people committing crime is incorrect, it is that people should be held accountable for what they do, not what they are likely to do. If you assume that people cannot escape their genes then you must assume they are criminals despite the fact they may never commit a crime.

The probability is taken as sufficient grounds and the net gain to society is justification in itself for implementing eugenics. In other words "three generation of imbeciles are enough" - we treat people as means to an end. The end being a better society.

The alternative is not to deny that different people have different propensities for anti-social acts but to treat them as equal before the act. o treat them as ends in themselves