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RFD for Presumed Consent Debate

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10/8/2015 2:45:46 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
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For a debate that should have been relatively straightforward, I think too much time is spent on small issues that end up not mattering in the larger context. I'll get to those as I go through an overview, but it becomes pretty clear by the end of the debate that there are only 2 or 3 issues that are really integral to the outcome. I'll focus on them towards the latter end of this RFD.

So, let's start with the problems.

1. Rule Structure

I'll address this more later, but I'll make clear here my general thoughts on Con's rule structure and Pro's attempt to add to it. What Pro is allowed to do is set the rules of the debate. Con is not allowed to add rules in wherever they feel it should benefit them. They can certainly argue that a set of arguments doesn't apply to their points (as I feel he did), but stating what Con can and cannot do is another story entirely. I did find that the framework argument also worked into this, but never really came to anything important.

2. Technicalities

Topicalities, acronyms, and standards debates, oh my!

I've been through the technical debate before, so I do understand most of these arguments (though admittedly, I had to look up NIBS). I think a lot of this just stopped mattering at the point that almost all of the arguments Pro was trying to pre-empt were just never presented. I get why he was trying to prevent a good deal of these, but generally, it's best to handle these after they take place, rather than trying to prevent them from being issues.

Generally, I'm just dismissing these off-hand, though. If Con had engaged in that kind of technical response, I would have basically ignored it as well. Technical debate has its place, and I don't think that place is a site like this. While I can see some debates being set up with the technicalities in place, I think both debaters have to be very clear from the outset that they want this kind of debate. Without that, I'm just generally viewing these as external issues that most people can't and won't understand. It does more harm to your argument to present them because it immediately turns people off who don't know what an RVI is.

That being said, whether or not studies that focus on soft consent are non-topical should be addressed. In this regard, I think Con takes it too far. It was unclear from the R1 rules that Pro couldn't create a case based solely on hard consent, and the definition certainly implies that that's possible. Given that that's what Pro decided to do, the reality is that soft consent-based responses don't apply.

3. Value Debate

I haven't done much LD debate personally, and I've judged only a limited number of rounds, so I won't pretend to be an expert in this type of debate " there are plenty of other people on this site that could do a better job of assessing this debate through that lens.

Be that as it may, I can't just ignore the problems with the way each argument is structured. A value debate requires that each side present a value that they're upholding, and a criterion that upholds that value. The value is often very general, and the criteria is used as a means to achieve it, thus everything is evaluated through the lens of the value criterion, providing a means by which I should determine what to care about and why.

As I see it, each of you has problems in this department.

Pro presents me with the value of morality and the criterion of utility. Morality, to me, seems like a very strange value. Almost every question is a moral question. You might as well have given me the value of "good" and left it at that because that's all I take away from seeing this. The criterion actually should have been the value... either that or you should have just set up a general net benefits framework and left it at that. Honestly, that's what Pro's position on the values amounts to by the end of the debate, but setting up the value and criterion in this manner does little to clarify it, and just leaves me clueless about what, if any, arguments should be favored. Later into the debate, Pro talks about the importance of saving lives, but without ever having set up from the outset that lives were the essential value (and he certainly could), it's never all that clear why I should be supporting that outlook in the context of this debate.

Con doesn't do any better. He provides me with a reasonable value in liberty, and then gives me a judging criterion that leaves me scratching my head. Egalitarianism doesn't clearly link to liberty. While Pro doesn't contest this link, I personally find it problematic since there's nothing inherent to equality that ensures liberty. If anything, it could have been argued that egalitarianism inherently reduces certain liberties, since equality often comes at the cost of freedom.

But neither of you really give me any reason to doubt your values or criteria. As such, I'm kind of just forced to accept them both. Neither of you are particularly convincing in your explanation for why I should support either one, so I'm really just going to assess the debate under both and see where that gets me.

Now, onto the arguments in general.

1. Opposition of Medical Experts

I'm addressing this point first because I'm just not seeing it as particularly strong. I think the argument could have been made that the opposition of medical experts causes unique harms upon the imposition of presumed consent. However, this argument never develops along those lines. All it manages to do is point to a widely-held opinion among experts. While Pro doesn't point out that this is an appeal to authority, it's not particularly strong in any regard.

2. Availability of Organs

This takes up most of the debate, and yet all I really see are a number of different sources going back and forth with only a little explanation as to what happens in each individual circumstance to affect the outcome. I think if the emphasis had been placed on why presumed consent results in fewer donated organs, then this might well have gone Con's way.

However, Pro's just doing more on the evidence level, examining why his evidence better applies to his case, and how it's more reliable. While I don't find the fact that it's a metastudy to be particularly convincing, the fact that his source accounts for a variety of factors that even Con stated were important just seems difficult to ignore. Much as I buy that Con's sources that use presumed consent in a different way may have been applicable to Pro's case, and while they may have contained some of the same important controls, Pro's just giving me the better analysis on how well his evidence applies.
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10/8/2015 2:46:05 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
3. Liberty and Egalitarianism

I think there's just not enough explanation going into this point from Con. Much as I buy that presuming consent presents with a number of problems with liberty and egalitarianism, I also buy from Pro that presuming non-consent inherently reduces liberty as well. Pro's not giving me a reason why liberty is MORE harmed by presuming consent than it is by not presuming consent (though I can think of several he could have exploited), so I'm forced to buy that the loss to liberty is actually greater without presumed consent based on population interest. Con eventually gets to some of the larger reasons, but a) it comes too late, appearing in the final round, b) it's blipped out as a bunch of sources with minimal explanation, and c) it's not clear how any of these are actually harmed just from reading the arguments.

What Con is winning is that he's not disadvantaging minority groups. I buy that this links to egalitarianism, though the link to liberty is at least somewhat uncertain, since the ability to opt out always exists. So really, what I'm doing is comparing nebulous harms to minorities who would be upset by this (and I can think of a lot of solid impacts from their being disadvantaged) with the harms to the liberty of a majority of people who would like to donate. I'm not sure just how many people fail to opt in because they didn't know, but since Con doesn't try to downplay this, I'm forced to buy that it's likely more people than any of the unknown minorities who would be upset by the lack of equality.


On both levels, I feel this is relatively straightforward. Pro's winning the evidence-based discussion that centers on utility, which means he's winning under his value. Pro's narrowly winning the liberty argument, thus winning under his opponent's. So I vote Pro.