Dominic is right thataddicts are competent to decide on sponsored sterilisation. I have argued that addicts can be autonomous and can consent to research trials involving drugs of addiction (Foddy, B., Savulescu, J.. (2006). ‘Addiction and Autonomy: Can Addicted People Consent to the Prescription of Their Drug of Addiction?’ Bioethics. 20 (1): 1-15 (Feb). DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2006.00470.x). I have also argued that paying people large amounts of money to participate in risky experiments does not coerce them or unreasonably induce them (Savulescu, J. (2001) ‘Taking the Plunge’. New Scientist; 169:50) and elsewhere that it is reasonable to offer people money for their organs – the only real ethical issue being to settle on a fair minimum price.
So there is nothing intrinsically wrong with offering addicts money to be sterilised. The only issue is – why stop at addicts? The principle behind this would seem to be that addicts are unfit to parent. But what about paedophiles, the mentally ill, or intellectually disabled? It is hard to see how the principle would not extend to a form of passive eugenics, like what the Nazis imposed in more extreme forms.
The obvious way to avoid this is to offer the inducement to everyone. This has the lovely consequence that those who don’t really want to or value parenting would take the money. And they are not likely to be any more model parents that addicts are.
The benefit of a policy of offering inducements to sterilisation is that it would select those who do not value, do not understand, do not want the role of parent. And it is precisely these people who are likely to be the worst parents.
Being a parent is, at best, a difficult job. Why not excuse those with the least motivation and determination? There are plenty of others willing to take their place. And the earth can only sustain a finite number of people.