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Yes, but this doesn't support your point that rights can be waived.

Sure it does. If I waive my right to life by telling another person to kill me, and they perform the act, it does exactly that.

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Wrong. That would be by your own logic. "Battery" involves the unconsented touching of another (not the full definition; however, the absence of consent is essential). In a football game, there is an implicit (if not explicit) consent to be touched by many others. There is no fundamental violation of rights in a football game per se (just as there isn't in my martial arts class); unlike a death-match.

Ah, so violence in a football game should not be punished because there is "an implicit (if not explicit) consent" involved. Accordingly, we would charge the promoters of death matches with murder only if they were unable to produce a signed and witnessed consent form from the deceased.

The point of a football game is not the incursion of permanent and irreparable injury as an end-in-itself. I'd hope you would be able to see the obvious difference between the two activities.

The point of a consent form is to demonstrate that each participant acknowledges the likelihood of permanent and irreparable injury. If the law should forbid all consensual arrangements that would produce such injuries to the human body, then kidney donations and vasectomies would have to be outlawed.

Edited by Tom Robinson

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If the law should forbid all consensual arrangements that would produce such injuries to the human body, then kidney donations and vasectomies would have to be outlawed.

Come on Tom, you honestly don't see a distinction between death-matches and kidney donations/vasectomies?

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The point of a consent form is to demonstrate that each participant acknowledges the likelihood of permanent and irreparable injury.

So you would consider it valid to have a contract wherein one party consented to be a slave to another party?

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So you would consider it valid to have a contract wherein one party consented to be a slave to another party?

No, for the reasons explained by Capitalism Forever in his post yesterday.

Come on Tom, you honestly don't see a distinction between death-matches and kidney donations/vasectomies?

Hmm, could it be that the consent forms for kidney donors and death match participants are worded differently?

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No, for the reasons explained by Capitalism Forever in his post yesterday.

Hmm, could it be that the consent forms for kidney donors and death match participants are worded differently?

Is this what you are referring to?

Rights are inalienable. This means that you have a right to discard your life if you want to, but you cannot discard your rights. You can say "Kill me," but you cannot say "Enslave me"--the latter would be an equivalent of "Do with me whatever you want, even if I don't allow you to," which is a contradiction.

If so, I don't see how that disallows slave contracts while allowing death contracts. If what's so bad about slave contracts is that the slave can't decide not to be a slave any longer, then how much worse is it when the contract killer has fully taken the life of his contracted victim, who now cannot possibly decide that he doesn't want to be dead any longer?

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So why can't a deathmatch contract stipulate the consequences of either party withdrawing from the match?

Ok, this is a great question, and something that I discussed in #Objectivist with Nxixcxk. I clarified some things in that coversation about my position.

It actually boils down, I discovered, to a constitutional issue which I think is necessary for any civilised society. You cannot permit the government to kill citizens for breach of contract. And that is what's required in order to uphold a death clause in any contract (and a breach/consequences clause is just another clause in the eyes of contract law).

So, if I have a contract that says "I will eat this apple, or you can kill me.", I can then decide not to eat the apple (breaking the contract), I can also decide not to let you kill me (breaking just another clause in the same contract), we would then end up in court. So, when both parties disagree then a court decides what should happen. If the contract can be fulfilled then it will force the fulfilment of that contract.

So, what you're proposing is that a government is able to force its citizens to die due to a contractual obligation. I don't think such an obligation is enough for the government to override your right to life. And for the following reason I don't think that any civilized society can allow such a thing.

If you allow the government that ability, then the population would quickly disintegrate into anarchy. What would prevent a would-be murderer from forcing you to sign a document, then contesting it in the courts and having the government kill you for them. Or even more simply, from saying "Sign this death contract, or I'll make your death really painful." and then kill you legally without you having any ability to defend your position.

It's the finality of death that means that subsequent defense of your signing of the contract is impossible, it's this finality that makes it incompatible with civilised society.

Constitutionally I think you have to restrict the government's power to kill its citizens, specifically stating the situations in which it can do it (if any, ie. death penalty). Beyond that, the government cannot kill its citizens, or order their death. That means that any death contract is unenforcable by the government. The government cannot force someone's death in that situation.

That means that someone else would need to force it, if the person changed their mind, and that's murder. I think that puts all the pieces that were in my mind into place.

If someone can show how a civilisation can exist where a government can arbitrarily decide to kill its citizens based on a signature, then fair enough - but I don't think you can ever discount the coerced signature.

This is probably (I haven't re-read them) a change in my previously stated position, in that this is no longer some sort of inherent reasoning, rather it is an intellectual decision to limit the powers of a government, and that leads necessarily to the inability to sign a death contract. Such a contract would simply be unenforcable.

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Imagine the following: company X provides cheap skydiving lessons, but fearing possible consequences stemming from parachutes not opening, decides to make its customers sign a contract which protected them against prosecution should anything go wrong. Would this be legitimate? The customer couldnt change his mind and cancel the contract once he jumped out the plane and found out his parachute didnt work.

This is completely different because the intention is not to kill the parachuters. It is a mitigation of risk of an accident. I certainly think that you could not (and nor should it be legitimate) to sign a document that says "Even if we intentionally sabotage your parachute, and hence know that you will die, you will not prosecute us." - which would be the death-match equivalent in this scenario.

Or worse, if you signed a contract saying that you will jump even if your parachute is flawed, then just before you jump they tell you that your parachute will not open, then expect you to jump anyway even though you know it means you will almost certainly die.

That's actually the best example of a parallel.

Your suggestion seems to automatically invalidate any kind of legal measure a company could take to protect itself when providing services which could potentially be dangerous, regardless of whether the company and its customers could reach an agreement.

I hope the above has shown that's not at all the case. Please let me know if it still seems like that to you, and I will elucidate further.

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There's a distinction, not often used, between _inalienable_ rights and _imprescriptible_ rights.

Inalienable rights are those which nobody _including_ the rights-holder can relinquish. You have those rights whether you want them or not. Imprescriptible rights are those which nobody _except_ the rights-holder can relinquish. On this view, rights are "take it or leave it" claims. It is the moral default that a person has sovereignty over himself -- unless he chooses to give it up.

My question is: why should we have to treat rights as inalienable rather than imprescriptible?

Rights define a person's sovereignty over himself and his property -- so why can't that sovereignty entail that he has the power to renounce his future sovereignty? Rights are moral principles delineating our sovereignty to decide how others may treat us physically - so why can't a person draft a contract that specifies that he grants another (the 'slavemaster') total discretion to treat him however the master likes?

It's not clear to me why a person can't waive his rights in general, but he can waive rights to this or that particular (such as right to THIS car or a right not to be bruised and bloodied.) I know some here will claim that (certain? all?) rights can't be waived, but that presumes that rights are inalienable. Again, why do they have to be inalienable rather than imprescriptible?

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Because waiving them would be like saying, "I allow you to do what I don't allow you to do." It simply doesn't make sense.

No, waiving them is like saying, "I allow you to do whatever you want." without you adding a disclaimer, the disclaimer being the part that makes it a contradiction. Your added disclaimer is in essence saying, " I do not waive all of my rights, only some of them."

[Edited for grammar - RC]

Edited by RationalCop

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Because waiving them would be like saying, "I allow you to do what I don't allow you to do." It simply doesn't make sense.

Unless I'm mistaken, you seem to be presuming that I must both allow and not allow something at the same time, but that's not the case. When I presently choose to waive my sovereignty it's all over for my future freedom. If I declare that: "As I now sign this contract, I grant others the freedom to do whatever they want to do to me, regardless of my resistance," then I'm _presently_ allowing something that I _presently_ want to allow for all time, regardless of later regrets about my present decision.

If I come to realize the obvious idiocy of my contract, whatever I might _later_ want to allow is beside the point since I choose to waive my sovereignty here and now. There is no future issue about what I have the sovereignty to allow -- I freely chose to give up that sovereignty! I exercised my right to set up a scenario in which I do not have future rights.

Are you claiming that rights _by definition_ are inalienable? If so, I still don't see how imprescriptible rights are contradictory.

EDIT: slight grammatical fixes

Edited by cellar door

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My question is: why should we have to treat rights as inalienable rather than imprescriptible?   

This is great, I've finally worked out why the right to life is inalienable. This provides the moral backing for the constitutional issues I raised in a previous post.

The reason that it is inalienable is because the reason that the right exists in the first place is inescapable. The reason you have a right to your own life is because you are you. Unless you can change that, then you can never discard the right to your own life. You can assign that right to someone else by contract, but you will still have that right yourself, which will allow you to cancel the contract at any point. Inalienable right trumps contractual obligation every time :)

So, yeah, that's where you would need to have a government willing to override your right to your life, to say that you are not you, that actually you are the sum of you and that contract over there, and enforce the contract by denying your right to your own life.

To cover some of the other examples given in this thread:

You can sign a termination wishes contract, because that is a definition of what you consider to be life. You are stating that at this point, I am not me anymore, hence I want to be euthanised. [Edit]But if that point was still while you were lucid, then nothing could prevent you from changing your mind, just in case you death-matchers were thinking of using a termination wishes contract to define the end of life as "Anytime after I step into that ring."[/Edit]

You can sign an assisted suicide contract, because you're still going to be conscious and able to direct others at the point of death, so right up to the point of termination you still have control over your own life. So you've never assigned the right to someone else.

You can sign, but it can't be enforced, a death-match contract because at any time in that death-match you can assert your own right to life, which is still yours to assert, because you're still you, and you can walk away.

It's not clear to me why a person can't waive his rights in general, but he can waive rights to this or that particular (such as right to THIS car or a right not to be bruised and bloodied.)  I know some here will claim that (certain? all?) rights can't be waived, but that presumes that rights are inalienable.  Again, why do they have to be inalienable rather than imprescriptible?

Ok, the car or any property right is simple. When he is not the owner of the property, then the right is no longer his. It is self-evident that there is no essential bond between a man and his property.

Waiving the right to be bruised and bloodied is more interesting. It's the permanency of death that makes this a little different. The equivalent in a bruised and bloodied scenario would be if he waived his right to decide how bruised and bloodied he could be made. Handed himself over and said, "You decide, beat me however you want." Which would actually be waiving his right to life again.

He certainly has the right to permit any specific level of damage to his body. But he also has the right to stop that at any point. You could not have a situation where, for instance, a boxer (or footballer) signed a contract permitting his trainer (or coach) to decide when he had had enough. The individual would always retain the right to call it off at any point when he decided he had had enough.

Does that sit as well with you as it does with me?

Edited by smathy

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The reason that it is inalienable is because the reason that the right exists in the first place is inescapable.  The reason you have a right to your own life is because you are you.  Unless you can change that, then you can never discard the right to your own life.  You can assign that right to someone else by contract, but you will still have that right yourself, which will allow you to cancel the contract at any point.  Inalienable right trumps contractual obligation every time <_<

This only addresses the context of it's legality, not it's possibility. And, this assumes that once the right is relinguished that the person relinguishing the right will default on the agreement. If you are trying to say that such a contract would be legally unenforceable, you have made a case. If you want to say it's impossible to relinguish your rights, by contract or otherwise, you fall short of making the case.

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The point is: you can give up VALUES, but you can't give up RIGHTS. If someone commits suicide, he gives up a value, but no violation of rights is involved.

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If so, I don't see how that disallows slave contracts while allowing death contracts. If what's so bad about slave contracts is that the slave can't decide not to be a slave any longer, then how much worse is it when the contract killer has fully taken the life of his contracted victim, who now cannot possibly decide that he doesn't want to be dead any longer?

Placing oneself completely under the will of another would mean surrendering or alienating the individual from what is naturally and absolutely his. As long as he is alive, Citizen A cannot transfer title of his body to Citizen B. A is stuck with his inherent ownership of himself. As John Stuart Mill put it, a party to a slave contract “defeats, in his own case, the very purpose which is the justification of allowing him to dispose of himself. . . It is not freedom to be allowed to alienate his freedom.” (On Liberty, Chap. 5) On the other hand, a suicide or death contract is not equivalent to surrendering ownership of one's body. It is, in fact, the exercise of the individual's right to dispose of his body as he wishes. It is true that a person cannot change his mind once his life is terminated, but that is also true of countless medical procedures. Should we outlaw hysterectomies because the womb cannot be restored once it is removed?

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On the other hand, a suicide or death contract is not equivalent to surrendering ownership of one's body.

It's surrendering your life to another. And, as it's already been argued, that's not a valid contract. However, that is not the same as possibly legitimate cases of euthanasia, and is certainly different than sports that entail the risk of injury. It's akin to a "contract" between people wherein they "voluntary" agree to slowly saw off each others limbs for sadomasochistic pleasure.

It is true that a person cannot change his mind once his life is terminated, but that is also true of countless medical procedures.  Should we outlaw hysterectomies because the womb cannot be restored once it is removed?

Again, you're evading the point. The one (the "death contract") is the permanent alienation of inalienable rights, while the other ("hysterectomy") is a valid medical procedure. Once more, you fail to recognize such a basic and obvious distinction.

With your insane opposition to the subpoena power (which would essentially plunge us into some form of legal anarchy), an opposition you latch onto by ceremoniously and incessantly citing a misunderstood, misapplied and out of context ethical mantra, to your bizarre insistence that a free society would allow death-match contracts (again by repeated mantras to your ethical axiom), to me you come across as some sort of nutcase libertarian/anarchist. It's not worth my time to communicate with you on these subjects anymore. Therefore, this is the end of my discussion with you. Feel free to continue posting to assure yourself the last word.

Edited by Gabriel_S

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It doesn't matter if Bob "voluntarily" agrees to the proposition.

It's murder even if the victim "agreed to it," which is preposterous.

To compare legitimate cases of euthanasia, with all that implies, to cases of "voluntary" death-matches

It's akin to a "contract" between people wherein they "voluntary" agree to slowly saw off each others limbs for sadomasochistic pleasure.

(Emphasis added)

What's up with the scare quotes?

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The point is: you can give up VALUES, but you can't give up RIGHTS. If someone commits suicide, he gives up a value, but no violation of rights is involved.

When they are dead, have they somehow retained their rights?

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Because waiving them would be like saying, "I allow you to do what I don't allow you to do." It simply doesn't make sense.

No, waiving them is like saying, "I allow you to do whatever you want." without you adding a disclaimer, the disclaimer being the part that makes it a contradiction.

Which part of "I allow you to do what I don't allow you to do" is a disclaimer?

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It's surrendering your life to another. And, as it's already been argued, that's not a valid contract. However, that is not the same as possibly legitimate cases of euthanasia, and is certainly different than sports that entail the risk of injury. It's akin to a "contract" between people wherein they "voluntary" agree to slowly saw off each others limbs for sadomasochistic pleasure.

If there is a right to end one’s own life, then one may legitimately employ someone else to do it or enter into a contractual arrangement in which one’s life is taken under certain conditions. In such cases, the individual continues to own his body until the moment of death. Thus, there is no surrendering of ownership, no alienation of rights.

Again, you're evading the point. The one (the "death contract") is the permanent alienation of inalienable rights, while the other is a valid medical procedure. Once more, you fail to recognize such a basic and obvious distinction.

If Citizen A kills himself he does not alienate himself from his body; he retains full ownership of the body as long as he lives. The same is true when an individual voluntarily consents to enter circumstances which include a high probability of death.

With your insane opposition to the subpoena power (which would essentially plunge us into some form of legal anarchy) an opposition you latch onto by ceremoniously and incessantly citing a misunderstood, misapplied and out of context ethical mantra, to your bizarre insistence that a free society would allow death-match contracts (again by repeated mantras to your ethical axiom), to me you come across as some sort of nutcase libertarian/anarchist. It's not worth my time to communicate with you on these subjects anymore. Therefore, this is the end of my discussion with you. Feel free to continue posting to assure yourself the last word.

Ad hominem. Since the topic here is death entertainment, a reference to a discussion on another thread is relevant only if you can demonstrate that all those holding Opinion X on subpoenas must necessarily have incorrect views on the present topic. Your attempt to dismiss me as a “nutcase,” is reminiscent of 20th century Marxists who would typically smear anyone expressing opposition to them as suffering from mental illness. As for the allegation of anarchism, if that is true then I must be the only anarchist in the world who believes in rule by a single sovereign government constrained by constitutional law.

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I exercised my right to set up a scenario in which I do not have future rights.

You have no such right. You have a right to your life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of your own happiness--and THAT'S ALL.

Your rights are not something you created or other people gave you; in other words, they are not your property. You cannot dispose over them like you can dispose over your toothbrush, bank account, or life. They are an objective fact of nature, just like 2 + 2 = 4. You are an individual, therefore you have rights. Just like you cannot declare that 2 + 2 be equal to 5, you cannot declare that you stop having rights. You have no sovereignty over reality.

The only way to stop having rights is to stop being an individual--that is, to die.

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Which part of "I allow you to do what I don't allow you to do" is a disclaimer?

The later part of the sentence. When you say waiving one's rights = "I allow you to do what I don't allow you to do", you are attempting to create the contradiction, not demonstrating one that exists inherently in the concept of waiving. You are creating the assumption that one will always wish to regain or later assert that which they have relinguished.

Waiving = "I allow you to do whatever you want."

If you want to establish that relinquishing one's right to life would/should not be legal, I think you can make the argument.

If you want to establish that relinquishing one's right to life is immoral, I think you can make the argument.

But if you are trying to establish that it is not possible to relinquish one's right to life, I'm not seeing it. It is possible and it can be done.

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If you want to say it's impossible to relinguish your rights, by contract or otherwise, you fall short of making the case.

Let me continue it, then.

A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. A man alone on an island needs no rights, because he need not impose a negative obligation on anyone in order to freely use his mind to choose his own actions to further his own life.

Now, you can see that the right to life is given rise to by the fact that men have reason and volition -- they must choose their own actions if they are to live. "Life" as a slave is not "life".

You cannot abdicate your powers of reason and volition in your own mind. You cannot "turn off" your brain; its always going to work, as long as you draw breath.

No matter how enslaved you may become to another man, you can still think for yourself. As long as you can do that, then you can choose your own actions, and you thus you have a right to your own life.

The only way to cancel your own right to life is to kill yourself, or give yourself a frontal lobotomy. Anyone else doing it is murdering you, regardless of any legal contracts. A legal contract cannot nullify your ability to think for yourself, and thus cannot nullify your right to your life.

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The only way to cancel your own right to life is to kill yourself, or give yourself a frontal lobotomy.  Anyone else doing it is murdering you, regardless of any legal contracts.  A legal contract cannot nullify your ability to think for yourself, and thus cannot nullify your right to your life.

If I cannot legitimately contract to have someone else kill me, then I have no right to kill myself. Is that your position?

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