As long as you are conscious, your ability to choose is never comprisable; we can simply be strongly persuaded to the point where we don’t believe we have a choice at all.
Something that I think many have struggled with over the course of the novel COVID-19 pandemic is the restrictions imposed upon our freedoms. At stages, we have been locked down, mandated to wear masks and forced into isolation. Our rights to freedom are and were compromised for our safety and wellbeing. But was and is that right? Don’t we have an inherent human right to choice? Or can this right be undermined by more important considerations like health and safety? These are interesting questions to consider when looking with a philosophical lense at the imminent COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Will employers be effectively able to force employees to have the jab? Let’s ponder these questions in this article, examining freedom and the right to choice.
Choice & Free Will: Always Existent
Even if we have nothing, we will always have the ability to choose; we all as humans inherently have free will and the capacity to make decisions for ourselves. As long as you are conscious, your ability to choose is never comprisable; we can simply be strongly persuaded to the point where we don’t believe we have a choice at all. For example, when faced with a life-or-death decision, one where a gun is pointblank to our head, we often feel as though we have no choice; no free will due to the instinctual drive to remain alive. We will do what the gunman says because we feel as though we can’t object.
But we in fact, can. Sure, we’ll probably end up dying but we still got to make the call, the decision. And that, in my philosophy, is what is important in life; not the length of it but how we live it.
The ‘Right’ to Choose? An Ethical Question
Whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccination is currently viewed as an individual’s choice, but some companies are saying they will mandate employees to get the jab otherwise they cannot work for them. The question we should ask here is, ‘is it right for businesses and organisations to require people to get the vaccine?’ Utilitarianists probably say it’s in the best interests of most people for everyone to get the vaccine to protect the greater population. But in my philosophical opinion, it is not ethically right to force a choice upon people. We must preserve freedom of free will and we should always be granted a choice. If governments are allowed to dictate the receiving of something like a vaccine, who knows what else they may force upon us.
Let’s take the example of the Jehovah’s Witness and blood transfusions. I am not a Jehovah’s Witness but it is my understanding that they do not wish to receive blood transfusions because the ‘life is in the blood’. If you were a Doctor and a patient came in saying not to give them the transfusion that would save their lives, you would surely need to respect their wishes. They will die but they have that right to choose and free will.* This example can be likened to the current proposal of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. As a health professional, you must respect the wishes of those who do not wish to have the vaccine, even if their having the vaccine will help save the lives of many. We must, in my opinion, preserve the quality of human life including human capacity to choose, not just preserve human life.
*This right to choose and free will can also relate to the ethical question of euthanasia, something we won’t explore in here for the sake of ethical debate.
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