Practices that are deceitful and cunning, in the interests of retaining power, have been dubbed Machiavellian, no doubt for Machiavelli's political treatise The Prince. To many, this short book is a canon of all things unethical; to be called Machiavellian is generally not favorable. Machiavelli cites numerous practices that should be done in order for a prince to keep power in his principality. Many of these methods, such as not honoring your word if it puts you at a disadvantage (Chapter 18), are against all modern philosophical and legal practices. However, in this myriad of modern don'ts lie bits of sound advice for leaders of old and new. And while the book largely concerns itself with warfare (even advising to do so in peacetime), at least one maxim has practical application to a modern public policy issue, abortion.
Parole di Machiavelli The Words of Machiavelli
In Chapter 21, Machiavelli advises government to be mindful of all the decisions that they make: Then no government should ever imagine that it can adopt a safe course of action; rather, it should regard all possible course of action as risky. This is the way things are: whenever one tried to escape one danger one runs into another. Prudence consists in being able to assess the nature of a particular threat and in accepting the lesser evil. The chapter, on the whole, concerns it self with ways that a prince shall gain honor, both by achieving great feats and also by being a true friend or a true enemy to another principality. Machiavelli cautions the ruler to be careful of forming alliance with anyone more powerful than he because upon victory, he shall become indebted to the other power.
[...] The intact D&E procedure has been shown to be significantly safer than D&E and the court refused to acknowledge this matter. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg expresses alarm at the idea that the court supports a procedure that could be harmful to a woman's health while dismissing the safer alternative. In certain situations, where a woman's only method of survival may be by intact the woman may not be able to receive the procedure and die. In that instance, the State would be directly responsible for the death of a woman. [...]
[...] Abortion is such an incredibly complex topic that has morality, health issues and biomedical ethics interwoven into all of its arguments, that some might find little room for the 16th century treatise's advice. The aforementioned advice is a more general statement about how a prince should never commit to any actions without assessing its risk first and can be appropriately applied to this issue. Ideally, all people should do this type of risk analysis when making consequential decisions, but the need for prudence is even greater when involving matters of public policy. [...]
[...] On the other hand, biomedical ethics and previous court decisions have already outlined patients and women have certain rights when it pertains to their health, reproductive and otherwise. It is even more appropriate to choose to declare the Act unconstitutional on these grounds because the evidence is more concrete. Conclusione Conclusion It is unlikely that such a delicate public policy issue should receive advise from such a barbaric treatise. This is because Machiavelli's The Prince was written in a time where warfare is what determined the land; naturally, all advice to leaders should relate to warfare. [...]
[...] Autonomy and nonmaleficence are two key components to ethics in the medical field. Depriving a person the right to be in control of their own health and causing harm to a patient are major violations of biomedical ethics, the application of moral philosophy to the medical field. Ingram & Parks, Understanding Ethics, at 206. In banning intact the right to patient's autonomy is violated because when the procedure is the most beneficial to the patient and it is made unavailable, the choice to make decisions regarding her own health has been taken away. [...]
[...] As recommended by Machiavelli, “Prudence consists in being able to assess the nature of a particular threat and in accepting the lesser evil.” Simply put, the first evil to consider is banning the procedure (by upholding the Act) and the second evil is allowing it (by declaring the Act unconstitutional). Both can be considered evils because either decision would leave many people unappeased. What would result from banning these procedures? The gruesome details of both the D&E and the intact D&E procedures provided by Justice Kennedy appeal to people's emotions; descriptions of a fetus's skull being crushed by metal instruments or its brain being vacuumed out of its skull invoke emotions of disgust. [...]
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