The Bite of Rights in Paternalism

In Thomas Schramme (ed.), New Perspectives on Paternalism and Health Care. Springer Verlag (2015)

Authors
Norbert Paulo
University of Salzburg
Abstract
This paper scrutinizes the tension between individuals’ rights and paternalism. I will argue that no normative account that includes rights of individuals can justify hard paternalism since the infringement of a right can only be justified with the right or interest of another person, which is never the case in hard paternalism. Justifications of hard paternalistic actions generally include a deviation from the very idea of having rights. The paper first introduces Tom Beauchamp as the most famous contemporary hard paternalist by outlining his moral theory (principlism) and showing why it, as it stands, has to allow for hard paternalism. Secondly, the paper focuses on the notion of rights within principlism. I will employ traditional theories of rights to make sense of rights in principlism. Unfortunately, this attempt fails. In the third part, then, I claim that rights can only be limited with reference to the rights or interests of others. This structure is the very point of rights, it is their bite. I will argue for this claim and show its implications. The most important implication is that not only principlism, but every normative theory that includes rights of individuals, has to abolish hard paternalism.
Keywords paternalism  rights  principlism
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