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Resolved: Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

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Resolved: Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

Welcome to a brand new debate season! Who’s excited?! I’m excited that, maybe, for the first time in nearly 5 years, the NFL will go back to the glory days of LD Debate, when topics were broad and philosophical and not stupid….or more stupid. Yay! Let’s get into it.


Adolescents – This is the group of people who are no longer children but not yet adults. The specific ages differ depending on where you are, but the age should really be irrelevant. You’re arguing the principle of whether or not these people, however society decides to define, should be able to make autonomous medical decisions.

Autonomous Medical Decisions – These are decisions one makes about his/her medical care free from outside influence or coercion. This is to say that a person can freely and independently make their own medical decisions, as an adult would.

Ought – Ought means should. Your job here is to explain how we determine what rights people should have.

Right – This is also your job to define. There are a lot of rights theories out there which explain rights in different ways. While we conceptually know what rights are, it’s important to elucidate exactly what you’re arguing for/against.


1. Veil of Ignorance – The argument here is that, from behind a veil of ignorance, all people would choose to have control over their own medical decisions. Ergo, any just social policy would dictate that adolescents have the right to make autonomous medical choices.

2. Self Determination – The right to self determination corresponds to one’s ability to be self-determinant. All beings who have such a capacity have a de facto right of self-determination which extends to medical decisions. Adolescents are self-determinant, and therefore, should have the right to make autonomous medical decisions.


1. The Categorical Imperative – Such autonomy is not universalizeable. We cannot reasonably say that all adolescents, or even all people, should have the right to make autonomous medical decisions. Therefore, we cannot say that, in general, adolescents should have the right to make autonomous medical decisions.

2. Utilitarianism – Adolescents are short sighted and prone to mistakes. Allowing them to make autonomous medical decisions would often result in harmful choices with long term consequences that they will not be able to foresee. Allowing parents to make their decisions for them is the more utilitarian approach.

I hope that helps get you started. Good luck!


9 thoughts on “Resolved: Adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices.”

  1. ColeTrain says:

    Nice topic overview. I really like the Utilitarianism Neg. argument. What’s your personal view?

    1. Ace says:

      Personally, I don’t think we can actually have a universal policy. It has to be done on a case by case basis. Some adolescents may be able to make their own decisions while others may not. I don’t know how the delineation would be made, but I think we could come up with some sort of evaluative measure.

      1. ColeTrain says:

        Yeah, that’s basically my opinion too. However, in general, I believe that parents do what’s best for their children. They’ll have plenty of time to make their medical decisions after they become an adult.

  2. Christopher Ashton says:

    do NOT run a veil of ignorance case and talk about abortion/teens having sex, the framework of the veil of ignorance is fundamentally pro-life.

    (i.e: apply the veil of ignorance to the fetus)

    1. Ace says:

      Hi Christopher,

      This is only if you assume the fetus is a person. If it isn’t, then the veil of ignorance is not a pro life position. That point would be up for contention. Even then, there are many who would argue they wouldn’t want to be born into a world where their mother didn’t want them or was forced to have them because of the law. Even after that, you might contend that you don’t want to be a fetus in a world where abortion isn’t permitted because of the extensive measures women will go to in order to self abort. As a final point, the argument significantly lacks impact because we’re not talking about whether or not abortion is permissible, we’re talking about whether or not adolescents can make their own medical decisions. It’s possible to have a world in which abortion is illegal and adolescents can still make autonomous medical choices.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can a person rely on this site

    1. ColeTrain says:

      Yes. There’s a lot of good analysis here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    for a project

  5. Anonymous says:

    Being a post do we really have a chance to out this up for real debate or can I use it??

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