In Leonard Peikoff’s latest podcast (no. 81), he fields a question about a sadistic therapist who manipulates his emotionally fragile and vulnerable patient into committing suicide. Peikoff concludes that this is a form of homicide. Nothing to disagree with strongly here, if you you realize that, by virtue of nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the context, the therapist is a cause of the patient’s death. Peikoff reasons that he has contractually obligated himself to do what he can to help her achieve a happy life. That
the context is that he has accepted a relationship, knowing that she is not able to function normally on her [own]. That he has agreed to sustain her, to help her, to make her strong enough to live. And that’s why she’s there, putting herself at his mercy in total trust to reveal
things that are bothering her. If he schemes to drive her to death, he “is the agent of her death, even if she chose it,” since he knows she is highly suggestible and he took advantage of it in a relationship in which she trusted and relied on him to help her. Thus, he views the therapist as a cause of her death.
But note that similar reasoning could apply to a pregnant woman with respect to the unborn fetus inside her, and of course to children. After all, hasn’t a pregnant mom voluntarily entered into a relationship in which the fetus is not able to function normally on its own? As I wrote here:
the libertarian could argue that the parent has various positive obligations to his or her children, such as the obligation to feed, shelter, educate, etc. The idea here is that libertarianism does not oppose “positive rights”; it simply insists that they be voluntarily incurred. One way to do this is by contract; another is by trespassing against someone’s property. Now, if you pass by a drowning man in a lake you have no enforceable (legal) obligation to try to rescue him; but if you push someone in a lake you have a positive obligation to try to rescue him. If you don’t you could be liable for homicide. Likewise, if your voluntary actions bring into being an infant with natural needs for shelter, food, care, it is akin to throwing someone into a lake. In both cases you create a situation where another human is in dire need of help and without which he will die. By creating this situation of need you incur an obligation to provide for those needs.
But the Objectivist doesn’t see it this way at all. Seems inconsistent to me.