Autonomy Vs. Paternalism Essay, Research Paper
Focus: Discuss the advantages and disadvantages on autonomy and paternalism.
Decision-making would be so much easier if we all maintained our autonomy in making the decision, however, because our decisions do not always abide by autonomistic values paternalistic intervention must occur. The purpose of autonomy is to allow us to choose to do things that affect only ourselves and does not negatively affect those around us. Unfortunately, many choices do, whether we know it or not, involve those in our environment. Paternalism is in place to protect the rights that are in our best interest and that will benefit us in the long run. Paternalistic intervention occurs when decisions are no longer in our best interests. If the decision is like to be regretted and irreversible in the future, paternalism is again justified. Autonomy is a fleeting concept, for as soon as someone chooses to do something that will later cause an addiction, his or her autonomy is lost. They no longer have the decision to do or not to do the action; it becomes a need.
Autonomy does have its advantages and disadvantages. One perk to autonomy is that it allows us to make decisions that we feel are in our best interests, as long as they either, do not affect those around us or are beneficial for them as well. As long as choices made based on autonomy are a result of the person acting on relevant, settled, preferred, and their own preferences; paternalistic intervention is not justified. However, autonomy is one of the easily lost characteristics. As I mentioned above, once an addictive substance has entered your life due to an autonomistic decision, your autonomy is lost. The addiction takes over and you can neither choose to have this addictive substance, nor choose not to have it. It controls your life and compels you to keep using it, therefore your decision is no longer your own. An example of this is any type of drug. Cigarette smoking is an excellent example. Most people who smoke look at it as a choice they made that only affects their lungs, but smoking doesn?t just affect the smoker?s body. Secondhand smoke kills more nonsmokers than firsthand smoke kills smokers. The choice to smoke becomes an addictive habit, which kills your autonomy. You do not have the choice to stop anymore.
Paternalism is in place to look out for and enforce what is in our best interest, whether they are choices we would or would not make. If decisions we make now are likely to be regretted in the future and are more likely to be irreversible, paternalistic intervention is there to step in and aid the decision. For example, someone chooses to drop out of school at a young age. That person will eventually regret this decision because they will find it hard to get a job with limited education, and also find it virtually impossible to put themselves back through school with limited funds to do so. This situation is a justified situation for paternalism to step in. Paternalism is mainly used in large decisions in people?s lives, decisions that involve high stakes. The advantages of having paternalism in place is that in the long run, with paternalistic intervention, our decisions will be better made. Paternalism is used by officials when make public policy. They look at your surface preferences and judge them on a standard of deeper preferences when configuring limitations and freedoms. There are, however, four types of preferences that prevent paternalistic intervention. They are relevant, settled, preferred, and your own preferences. As long as officials are convinced you are acting on one or all of those preferences, they have no right to step in. The disadvantages to paternalism is that most feel that they should be able to make their own decisions without having any interference. Paternalism is looked down upon when someone feels that their best interest was in the choice they made but paternalists feel differently. In the story of Rose Cipollone, paternalism was too late for her. She had been smoking from the age of 16, a very impressionable age, and though she attempted to quit many times, the loss of her autonomy caused the addiction to take over. Her smoking then caused cancer. The paternalistic view says that, at age 16, Rose?s decision may have been to smoke, but her decision later in life is to live. Had paternalistic intervention occurred when she was 16, she may not have liked it then, but knowing what she knows now, she would have been grateful later in life. This is an example of the decision being something you would regret later and being irreversible.
I believe that autonomy only goes so far in our decision making. Many of our decisions are made by paternalism. There are so many policies that protect our best interests that autonomy does not have much breathing room. I am a supporter of paternalistic intervention because I have seen what smoking has done to many people around me as well as to myself. Knowing the side effects and damage smoking can do, I do not see how someone can knowing choose to pick up a cigarette. I know it is an addictive habit because I was a smoker for two years and it has been the hardest thing to quit for me. It started with peer pressure and naivet?. I was in a mindset of ?that can?t happen to me?. I knew all of the horrible things it could do to you because my grandfathers and father were smokers and I looked at it as a disgusting habit. Boy, how your views change when you are making the decision for yourself. I believe that paternalism is a good thing to have, especially in cases where the outcome of the decision is not foreseen clearly.