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Rights of severely mentally ill

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 thenelli01
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Which part?

   Your whole response really.

 

It's hard to believe these sorts of responses. Think about it for a minute: do you see anything wrong with killing a mentally ill person? A mentally ill child? If you do see something wrong with that- what is it?

 

What's wrong is that you're ending another person's life. (Yes, mentally ill people are human. They are not animals in any sense of the term: they are people. Just because you are physically or mentally disabled, you are still a human being.) Worse, you are ending someone's life who has not harmed you, initiated force against you, or anything of the sort. As a guardian, you would be taking your child's life to shirk your responsibility for him.. and that is wrong, especially since there are many other options available to relieve you of this responsibility. As a guardian, abusing your child would be initiating force against a defenseless person.

 

Think about it another way: Do you see anything wrong with abusing or killing a die-hard communist, or a person who lives off the state- someone who is not 'rational' in any positive, productive way? Again, the same thing is true: these people have rights, no matter how evil or destructive they may appear to you. They have the right to live their lives in almost any way they see fit, as long as they do not violate others' rights.

 

Any human life is more valuable than an animal life, no matter how subpar it may be. Think of heroic acts: saving your children from being hit by a car, talking someone out of jumping off a bridge, rescuing someone from a burning building. This happens because the 'hero' is concerned about other lives, values them, and wants them to live on even at risk to himself. This is all done in the name of valuing human lives.

 

I didn't say it wouldn't be immoral to kill a severely mentally ill person. I think it would be. Just because you have a right to do something, doesn't mean it is automatically moral. Your whole post seems to be attacking the morality of killing a severely mentally ill person. Instead, the focus should be on their right to life and the source of that right, which is what this topic is about.

 

Also, your comparisons were not relevant or fair. First, with your child example - children have right to life. Second, with your communist / welfare queen example - both have the right to life. The whole point of this topic is to establish whether or not the severely mentally ill - SPECIFICALLY those who are conscious with no conceptual ability and no potential of improving - have the right to life and what the source of their rights is according to Objectivism.

Edited by thenelli01
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Which part? ...Accordig to you in post #40, "Since rights are dependent on man's rational nature, I would argue that they wouldn't have the right to life." Not having the right to life meas that you can be killed, (as a deer can be run over with a car and left to die on the side of the road), and the killer will not be penalized. As you say, killing deer on purpose is not moral in all cases, but it would be legal to kill deer on your own property (or with permission on someone else's property) in an LFC society. Contrast this with killing human beings - or as Rand puts it, initiating lethal force against others. Morality aside, would such an act be legal in an LFC society? Even if the person you're killing is a die-hard communist, a non-rational person, etc? Of course not. Killing someone who is not initiating force against you is and should be illegal. All humans are entitled to the right to life unless they violate others rights.. in which case, they will be penalized as the law sees fit.

Being irrational is not the same as having no conceptual ability. I suggest rereading on the source of rights. It doesn't come from God and it doesn't come from simply being human - they are moral principles based on the factual requirements of human life in a social context.

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   I didn't say it wouldn't be immoral to kill a severely mentally ill person. I think it would be. Just because you have a right to do something, doesn't mean it is automatically moral.

 

Do you believe that people should have the legal right to kill severely mentally ill people?

From the bolded part of your response, it seems that you do.. but I have no idea how you could derive that from any part of Oism...

 

 

  ...The whole point of this topic is to establish whether or not the severely mentally ill - SPECIFICALLY those who are conscious with no conceptual

ability and no potential of improving - have the right to life and what the source of their rights is according to Objectivism.

 

I was focusing on the 'right to life' aspect of the concept 'rights'. All men have a 'right to life', from the moment they're born till the moment they die. (I will try to explain this below.) If person A takes person B's life, person A violated the 'right to life' of person B and should be punished under the law for that violation. In fact, Rand says that any initiation of physical force against other (human beings) is an act of evil.

 

Relevant quotes from ARL:

 

"Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not,

the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or

forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you

hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others." - Rand

 

"...When you declare that men are irrational animals and propose to treat

them as such, you define thereby your own character and can no longer claim the

sanction of reason—as no advocate of contradictions can claim it. There can be

no “right” to destroy the source of rights, the only means of judging right and

wrong: the mind." -Rand

 

The bolded part of paragraph 2 applies to this thread:

-You say ('severely mentally ill') men are irrational animals

-You propose to treat (these men) as (mere animals)

-But that is wrong. "There can be no "right" to destroy the source of rights of other human beings."

 

What is the source of man's rights that Ayn Rand is talking about here? "The right to life is the source of all rights" - Man's Rights.

 

Ok- so mentally ill people either have the right to life or they don't. If they don't have the right to life, they have no rights at all. That means anyone can randomly kill them with no legal repercussions. Obviously, that is wrong. As I tried to explain above, and in Ayn Rand's own words, "There can be no 'right' to destroy the source of rights". (Remember, the source of rights is the right to life).

 

I think it follows that the mentally ill do have the right to life based on the impossibility of the right to destroy another's life.. is that logically valid? :huh:

Edited by mdegges
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Do you believe that people should have the legal right to kill severely mentally ill people?

From the bolded part of your response, it seems that you do.. but I have no idea how you could derive that from any part of Oism...

 

That is the point of this topic. I was looking for the Objectivist position on the rights of severely mentally ill people - those that are conscious, have no conceptual capacity and no potential of improvement. Do they have the right to life and what is the source of that right?

 

It's really not hard to see how this is a relevant question when the Objectivist position on rights is that it rests on man's rational nature.

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That is the point of this topic. I was looking for the Objectivist position on the rights of severely mentally ill people - those that are conscious, have no conceptual capacity and no potential of improvement. Do they have the right to life and what is the source of that right?

 

It's really not hard to see how this is a relevant question when the Objectivist position on rights is that it rests on man's rational nature.

 

I agree with Diane Hseish's position that the rights of such an individual would pass to the parents or assigned ward. The ward should legally be able to do whatever he wants to with the body, even to the sick extremes of eating it.

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That is the point of this topic. I was looking for the Objectivist position on the rights of severely mentally ill people - those that are conscious, have no conceptual capacity and no potential of improvement. Do they have the right to life and what is the source of that right?

 

It's really not hard to see how this is a relevant question when the Objectivist position on rights is that it rests on man's rational nature.

 

We may be talking about different groups of people.

 

In my previous posts I was referring to mentally ill people, specifically those who can only survive with care from others, and who will never be cured. For example, adults with the mind of a 3 year old, those with down syndrom, etc. Eiuol pointed out that even these people have a 'conceptual faculty,' and that the only people who fit the description in your question are those in a vegetative state. (I looked into this more, and even that is not 100% accurate, given there's different types of vegetative states.)

 

For example, "Most PVS patients are unresponsive to external stimuli and their

conditions are associated with different levels of consciousness. Some

level of consciousness means a person can still respond, in varying

degrees, to stimulation. A person in a coma, however, cannot. In

addition, PVS patients often open their eyes in response to feeding,

which has to be done by others; they are capable of swallowing, whereas

patients in a coma subsist with their eyes closed"

 

There's a list on wiki of 'consciousness disorders' which I think meets your criteria more accurately.. ("Some define disorders of consciousness as any change from complete self-awareness to inhibited or absent self-awareness")... however, even people with these disorders are conscious in varying degrees until brain death, (the "irreversible end of all brain activity").

 

If you do mean people in a 'vegetative state' in the loosest sense of the term...

Sometimes directions are covered in wills - ie: 'keep me on life support for as long as my family can afford it' or 'don't go to extraordinary measures to save my life if there's no chance i'll be able to function independently ever again...' But if the person didn't specifically write anything about it in their will, the family can choose to either pay for life support or pull the plug.

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What would a man who is 'conscious but having no conceptual ability' be? I am prejudice toward concretes, my bad, could you give an example? Because if a man were conscious, given man's specific kind of consciousness he would have to be conscious with a conceptual ability, though due to injury or genetic defect that faculty would/could operate on a diminished capacity.

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We may be talking about different groups of people.

 

In my previous posts I was referring to mentally ill people, specifically those who can only survive with care from others, and who will never be cured ... ...

I believe this is the same group Nellie is referring to.

This topic is a bit academic, but it is also an interesting exercise: testing an "edge case" can make one ask what premises are crucial and why. Objectivism does not recognize (non-human) animal rights, only human. Why? What distinguishes humans from other animals? Objectivism's answer speaks about rationality. So, the edge-case asks: what about humans who do not have any hope of being rational in any ordinary sense? How can we argue that such humans should have rights while animals do not? Emotionally, we want to say "because they're human!", but that is really not an argument: it simply leads us back to "why do humans have rights while a dog or a chimp does not?" What is the difference between these that makes for rights?

And... why should a rational faculty make any difference? For instance: is it because humans need rights in order to live their lives freely and achieve their ends? Surely not... after all, if a deer had rights, he too would have a better chance of living a longer life. So, need is not the reason. What, then, makes rationality an important factor in the first place?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Would it be accurate to say that human life is more valuable (to humans) than animal life? (What sets human life apart from animals is human intelligence.. which varies by degree, depending on the person. There is always the potential for individual growth, hope for progress, etc, until and unless an individual is literally brain dead.) I mentioned earlier that hero's (policemen, firefighters, soldiers, etc) risk their lives for others on a regular basis. Why do they do that? "...because the 'hero' is concerned about other lives, values them, and wants them to live on even at risk to himself."

 

 How can we argue that such humans should have rights while animals do not? Emotionally, we want to say "because they're human!", but that is really not an argument:

 

I think the premise of that 'emotional response' is the belief that human life is valuable, important, and worth fighting for. With that in mind, the thought of a person abusing or murdering any innocent human being (whether handicapped, disabled, etc) is sickening. As Matt made clear, he too doesn't believe this would be morally right, but he questions if it should be legally right in a LFC society. Taking everything that Rand said about the evil of initiating physical force against others (humans), I think she would definitely agree that abusing or mudering any innocent human being should be illegal.

 

As a quick update, I found a really helpful response here from IdeasForLife. Below is about half of his long answer. I think it is worth a read:


 

A genetically human "creature" will always have at least a slightly different status than a non-human animal. We eat animals. We don't eat humans, no matter how mentally deficient they may be (although we may occasionally need to kill them if they attack us and leave us no choice, but a human attack that powerful generally requires a high degree of human-level mental capacity in the attacker). As the Editor's Preface to The Ayn Rand Lexicon mentions (humorously), Objectivism does "not advocate eating babies for breakfast."


Beyond that, the degree to which a not-fully-rational being would have the same individual rights as normal adult humans depends on the degree to which the individual's rational faculty is normal. Children do not have the same range of rights as adults, for example, until the child grows and develops to the point where he needs such freedom of action and can function rationally and productively, with full respect for the rights of others as well as their respect for his rights. Humans, of course, begin life as helpless babies totally dependent on others to care for them.


Update: The Context of Rights


As the questioner notes in a comment, the 2nd paragraph of the question was added subsequently to my original answer. I actually wasn't entirely certain from the 1st paragraph whether the questioner was asking about an alleged "right" to depend on others for support (which would make the others victims of altruism unless they chose to accept the responsibility, as in the case of parental responsibility for a child) -- or merely a "right to life" (at minimum) that others may not violate. The 2nd paragraph makes the "right to life" intent more clear.


Apparently the question boils down to why a human has a right to life while an animal does not, even if the human allegedly has less cognitive capacity than a non-human animal (which I find hard to envision unless the human is nearly brain dead and very possibly not even conscious any longer). The question evidently also assumes that it has somehow been determined that the "handicapped" human will never improve, which again moves the issue significantly away from reality.


It is important to remember the "paradigm case" first and foremost, i.e., why it is that normal humans have a right to life and, as adults, all the other rights that are corollaries of the right to life. If the right to life itself is in question, then it is also important to understand why even a newborn human infant has a right to life, while an unborn fetus and an animal do not. Normal human adults have individual rights because they need freedom of action in relation to potentially forcible interference from others (i.e., "freedom of action in a social context"). Man survives by productiveness and trade guided by reason. The freedom to act in that manner is essential for man's survival -- freedom from forcible interference by others. And the others, as normal humans, also need to survive in the same manner, with the same protection of their individual rights and the same respect for the rights of everyone else.


Once the paradigm case is understood fully, I submit that the application to children (of any age, even newborns) becomes far more clear. Every normal adult owes his existence to the fact that he was allowed to grow and develop from birth to adulthood, and to the protection of his right to life throughout that developmental process...


What is distinctive about man in general, compared to other animals, is man's conceptual faculty and the mode of survival that depends on it. Non-human animals do not have any comparable conceptual factuly and certainly do not depend on concepts of any kind for their survival. They lack the most basic differentiating quality, a conceptual capacity, that separates humans from other animals...


With the foregoing context to serve as a backdrop, we can address the issue of a defective human. There are many possibilities, however: to what degree is the individual conscious at all? Is he conscious on a conceptual level, or perhaps in only a very limited degree? (Which would still be more than any non-human animal can achieve, and no animals species other than man relies on concepts for survival.) Above all, how did the defective human get that way, i.e., where did he come from, how did he begin, how did he grow (if he's not still a baby), who took care of him as a child, was he put up for adoption, etc.? Someone must have been responsible for that person while he was a child, on the premise that the child might grow into a reasonably functional adult eventually -- or at least be accorded the benefit of reasonable doubt as to his future potential. I can readily understand that the utterly dreadful stories of atrocious behavior I've heard from parents about children who suffer from severe ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) could lead a parent to want to be rid of the burden long before the child reaches an adult age (such as through adoption or institutionalization), but such a human still deserves the benefit of reasonable doubt (i.e., hope) as to his future potential (just as every rational parent his high hopes for normal children).


As for a comatose, brain-dead human, there comes a point where it is reasonable to disconnect the patient's life support and allow him to live or die on his own, giving him every possible opportunity to regain consciousness and begin to breathe and eat on his own power, and so on -- or die. And after death, it has also become acceptable practice (to my knowledge) for the patient's legal guardian(s) to authorize the use of his organs to save other human lives, unless the patient had the opportunity to grant such permission himself (if he was ever conscious) and did not do so. Again, one must look at the total context, especially how the patient came to be in his present state -- at what age, for how long, under what circumstances, etc.


In real life, to my knowledge, it would be an extreme rarity for a conscious human to be so cognitively impaired as to have no conceptual capacity at all, with his consciousness confined entirely to the sensory-perceptual level. Such a human would not be able to survive for long in the wild, like other animals, without all the other attributes that non-human animals have (like claws, fur, keener senses than man has, brains "wired" to connect sensory stimuli with physical actions automatically, and so on). I've never actually heard of such a thing myself, an animal that looks human but functions somehow without any trace of human intelligence. If it's real, let's cite an actual case and take a closer look at the precise details of it."

 

 

One final update- there's a thread on here called 'Rand and the Handicapped' that has some information about Rand's opinions in regards to handicapped school children. All the responses there seem to assume that handicapped children have the right to life (but few seem to believe that handicapped children should be placed in 'normal' classrooms).

Edited by mdegges
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The right to life is determined by an ability to conceptualize and reify one's environment. It follows that the mentally retarded and psychologically ill would still have that right, as neither condition precludes sapience. Someone in a Persistent Vegetative State with no hope of recovery wouldn't have an inalienable right to life because their state of being precludes sapience. More than likely, they would subsist on the mercy and will of their guardian, or on the charity of others. Ending such a person's life without the expressed permission of their guardian would be immoral.

Edited by Rhona Hindler
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I was rereading most of OPAR this weekend, Peikoff:

"All rights rest on the fact that man survives by means of reason. Rights are rights to the actions necessary for the preservation of a rational being. Only an entity with no conceptual faculty has judgment on which to act, volition to select goals, and intelligence with which to create wealth."

"The source of rights, as of virtues, is not the sensory-perceptual level of consciousness but the conceptual level. The source is not the capacity to experience pain, but the capacity to think."

So they would have no rights, or limited rights, depending upon the extent of their mental incompacitites?

He did say in the podcast that even if partial or total, they would still be humans. I don't necessarily agree with that.

Edited by intellectualammo
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Now here is Peikoff, this gives strength to his view of them being considered human, epistemologically:

When “rational animal” is selected as the definition of “man,” this does not mean that the concept “man” becomes a shorthand tag for “anything whatever that has rationality and animality.” It does not mean that the concept “man” is interchangeable with the phrase “rational animal,” and that all of man’s other characteristics are excluded from the concept. It means: A certain type of entity, including all its characteristics, is, in the present context of knowledge, most fundamentally distinguished from all other entities by the fact that it is a rational animal. All the presently available knowledge of man’s other characteristics is required to validate this definition, and is implied by it. All these other characteristics remain part of the content of the concept “man.”

Edited by intellectualammo
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