While glancing at Twitter this morning, I came across this term in a response to a tweet by Congressman Thomas Massie, in which Massie discussed the possibility of Covid vaccine booster shots. This is far from the first time I’ve heard such sentiments expressed. Earlier this year, the hashtag “Deathsantis” was trending after Florida governor Ron DeSantis prohibited businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
In this blog post, I’d like to address the common argument that people who prioritize individual rights over stopping the spread of Covid are “pro-death.”
In any policy decision, there are various factors that need to be weighed, and different people will have different opinions about how to weigh them. When it comes to the Covid pandemic in particular, people have very different answers to the question: to what extent, if any, should individual liberty be sacrificed in order to fight the virus? Some people subscribe to the ideology of utilitarianism, and believe that it is okay for liberty to be restricted if doing so saves lives. Other people, including myself, believe that individual rights come first, and that it is never okay to take away rights no matter how many lives would be saved by doing so.
To say that someone is pro-death is to say that he/she is actually seeking to cause as many deaths as possible, which is, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. Public figures such as Massie, DeSantis, Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and others accused of being “pro-death” are not actually causing deaths, let alone doing so intentionally. They are prioritizing respect for individual rights over saving lives, which is exactly what they should be doing. Individual rights, by their very definition, must always come first. And in a world where prioritizing individual rights is increasingly viewed as reckless and “pro-death,” it is courageous and heroic to do so.
People have a fundamental right to move about freely, to decide which activities to participate in, to decide what to put into their bodies, and to decide which medical procedures (if any) to undergo, to give just a few examples. Through policies such as stay-at-home orders, limits on gatherings and events, vaccine requirements, and Covid testing requirements, these rights have all been violated to various degrees over the past year and a half. Objecting to such policies does not make someone “pro-death;” it makes someone pro-liberty, pro-freedom, and pro-individual-rights. It may very well be true that many lives were saved due to these violations of people’s rights, but that does not make the violations okay, let alone obligatory.
To sum up, violating people’s rights is never okay, regardless of how many lives will be saved by doing so. Failing to save lives is not the same thing as causing deaths, particularly when saving lives would require the violation of people’s rights, and therefore would be morally impermissible. It is simply not true that anyone who does not use every measure within his/her power to save lives must be pro-death. This argument ignores the entire concept of individual rights, and anyone who makes it is demonstrating sloppy thinking and a lack of logic.