January 9, 2020

Should we allow people to make decisions which will potentially hurt them?

Fiona Findlay

Wild Horses, 2020

This work focuses on choices which we often take for granted but which can easily be taken away by family, government, or environmental factors. In this story, there are small choices which poverty denies Marie: clothes, carpeting, a new mattress. Then, there are larger decisions which are made for her by those in positions of power: her inability to have a surgical abortion; the forced adoption of her child. This work questions how far we should impose our own values onto people, and when we should allow them to make decisions which could potentially hurt them. If we restrict an individual’s choice in an attempt to protect them, how far are we causing them more harm? This harm can be psychological—in the case of Marie losing her child—but also physical: Marie feels she has no other choice than to try to induce miscarriage by drinking pennyroyal tea—a potentially fatal herb. While this story focuses on choices relating to women’s bodily autonomy, these values can be applied to other areas such as euthanasia or self-medication through drug or alcohol use. When people’s choices are restricted, they can resort to desperate measures which may cause them infinitely more harm.