Autonomy, Restraint and the Common Good

The views of Joseph Raz, Ronald Dworkin, John Finnis, and Robert George on the value and limits of personal autonomy are examined in a new article by Adam McLeod, The Mystery of Life in the Laboratory of Democracy: Personal Autonomy in State Law. “The article then examines several different areas of state law where one might expect a principle of autonomy to be implicated, and articulates six important lessons that one can glean from state law about the relationship between personal autonomy and other human goods.” The six principles Professor MacLeod identifies are:

(1) Personal Autonomy is an Important Condition of Pre-Moral Choosing Among
Basic Human Goods.
(2) The State Properly Restricts Exercises of Personal Autonomy That Cause Harm.
(3) Personal Autonomy is an Important Condition of the Realization of Reflexive
Basic Goods.
(4) Some Autonomous Acts Are Valueless.
(5) Not All Basic Goods Appear to be Reflexive.
(6) Neither a Principle of Personal Autonomy nor the Unconditional Value of Some
Basic Goods Conclusively Resolves Every Controversial Issue.

His discussion of assisted suicide as supportative of the proposition that “some autonomous acts are valueless” will be of particular interest to UFL members.

Teresa Collett

Teresa Stanton Collett is a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she teaches bioethics, property law, and constitutional law. A nationally prominent speaker and scholar, she is active in attempts to rebuild the Culture of Life and protect the institutions of marriage and family. She often represents groups of state legislators, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Christian Medical and Dental Association in appellate case related to medical-legal matters. She represented the governors of Minnesota and North Dakota before the U.S. Supreme Court as amici curiae regarding the effectiveness of those states’ parental involvement laws. She has served as special attorney general for Oklahoma and Kansas related to legislation designed to protect the well-being of minors and unborn children. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittees on the Constitution, as well as numerous legislative committees in the states.