Should Drug Addicts Be Paid to Get Sterilised

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The controversial debate on cash incentives to drug addicts to get sterilised has been ongoing for over a decade. In 1997, Project Prevention was founded in a bid to curb the problem of ‘drug babies’ – unhealthy newborn babies suffering the consequences of their mothers’ drug and/or alcohol abuse while they were pregnant (Project Prevention, 1999). Project Prevention has since offered drug addicts in the United States US$300. However, when Project Prevention extended its program into the United Kingdom and paid a man to be sterilised in Britain, this debate grew a into media sensation on a global scale (Collins, 2010). The central questions of the debate are whether drug addicts should be paid to get sterilised, or should the program be stopped? This essay will first discuss the advantages of sterilising drug addicts, as it acts as a harm reduction tool, condensing the problem of ‘drug babies’ and the burden on social welfare. It will then be argued that drug addicts should not be paid to get sterilised, as there are other less radical effective techniques to curb drug addiction and reduce harm, such as creating stronger social networks and providing stronger character education in schools. Sterilising drug addicts sets a tone of finality, emitting the idea that there is no chance for rehabilitation or a better life for drug addicts. Lastly, this essay will seek to address the immorality of offering cash incentives to drug addicts in exchange for their fertility. To date, there has been a constant supply of donations in support of Project Prevention, and it has already paid more than 3,600 mainly female addicts in the US to be sterilised (Collins, 2010). According to Barbara Harris, sterilising drug addicts is preventing them from “giving birth to children whose lives may end up the same as theirs” (Beresford, 2010). Both illegal and legal drugs, such as cocaine and alcohol respectively, can be harmful on a developing foetus, leading to the birth of a substance-exposed newborn with a multitude of accompanying metal and physical problems. These negative effects of drugs on can be serious and permanent – the substances are likely to remain longer in a developing foetus than in its mother. Consequently, these babies suffer from a large range of health problems such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, low birth weight, decreased appetite, intrauterine growth retardation, physical deformities and withdrawal syndrome, just to name a few (Johnson, 2001). Children in these situations often suffer from significant behavioural and emotional problems due to the abusive and unpredictable parenting behaviour that frequently follows substance abuse (Project Prevention, 1999). The fate of such ‘drug babies’ lie within their parents who are unable to control their drug addiction. In a recent example, 26-year old Lyndsey Fiddler had put her 10-day old daughter, Maggie May, in the washing machine together with dirty laundry while high on drugs. Maggie May was later found dead in the washing machine. Upon arrest, Fiddler tested positive for opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepine and methamphetamine. Fiddler also told police that she could not recall how her daughter got in the washing machine and went through a complete washing cycle (Uribarri, 2010). Why then, should parents like Fiddler be able to reproduce again, if the same horrific incident can potentially reoccur? ‘Drug babies’ suffer as a consequence of irresponsibility on the part of their parents. Since these babies are powerless, a logical solution would be to control the fertility of drug addicts – as the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Moreover, the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child in 1989 provides that children all over the world must have the “right to survival, to develop to the fullest, to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life” (ChildSafe International 2007, p. 1)....
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