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Who would make health decisions about children in a libertarian society: parents or medical professionals?

in Children's Rights, Healthcare, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Marriage and Family by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I just read about Boston Children’s Hospital taking children away from their parents if children's health decisions in a libertarian societythey don’t agree to treat their children the way the doctors recommend. Would this happen in a libertarian society?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, a child’s guardians, normally the parents, would decide whether the treatment was worth the risk. No treatment works for everyone and every treatment has side effects in some people. Parents might not always make the optimal decision for their child, but doctors won’t always either. If the doctor feels strongly about a certain treatment, he or she should take the time to convince the parents of its worth, rather than use aggression to enforce their recommendation.

The article you cited indicated that children are taken from their parents most frequently “when doctors diagnose the child with a psychiatric disease, but the parents think the condition is a physical one.” Mental problems can be caused by physical factors, such as diet, genetic abnormalities, and certain vitamin deficiencies, which blur the distinction between psychiatric and physical. These factors are often downplayed or totally ignored in physician training. Licensing boards determine the medical school curriculum and reinforce the status quo, rather than cutting-edge or “politically incorrect” knowledge. Emphasis is placed on drug treatment instead of prevention or nutritional therapy, primarily due to FDA regulations. Since children often respond more negatively to psychiatric drugs than adults, forcing children to take them can actually be detrimental.

In a libertarian society, medical practice would be more diverse, since doctors would be certified instead of licensed and prevention wouldn’t be hampered by FDA regulations. Consequently, our medical science would be more advanced. In a society accustomed to using persuasion, rather than coercion, parents are likely to become better informed by doctors and make the best decision for their children.

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Libertarianism and Forced Testimony in Courts

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: In a libertarian society, when marriage becomes a private institution, what will happen to the right of a person not to be forced to testify against their spouse in a court of law?

MY SHORT ANSWER: In a libertarian society, no peaceful person could be forced to do anything, including testify against another. Today’s government simply threatens people with prison and fines unless they give information, often at great cost to themselves (e.g., missing work).

Does this mean if you were charged with murder that the witness who could save you wouldn’t testify? Probably not. Witnesses could be reimbursed for lost work and other expenses for testifying, so their cost would be minimal. Withholding crucial information would likely be considered socially unacceptable. Few people would want to be embarrassed by a public announcement that they had done so — and caused an innocent person to suffer.

Even today, it’s almost impossible to force someone to testify truthfully. Witnesses lie to protect themselves and others, even under oath. That’s probably the real reason that spouses can’t be forced to testify today: they are the ones most likely to twist the truth for the benefit of their loved ones.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Free or Compulsory Speech“ by Murray N. Rothbard. The great libertarian thinker Murray Rothbard explores this issue with his characteristic vigor and consistency in this article, which first appeared in Libertarian Review in November 1978.

Excerpt: “The most flagrant example of continuing compulsory speech takes place in every courtroom in our land: the compulsory bearing of witness. Now surely each person is the absolute owner of his or her own body; as the owner of his own body, only the individual should decide on whether or not to speak in any given situation, and there should be no compulsion upon him to talk or not to talk. And yet in every court, witnesses are dragged in by force (the subpoena power) and compelled to bear witness for or against other people.”