Kate Jennings, an Australian novelist and poet, published Moral Hazard in 2002. Born on 20 May, 1948, she grew up on a farm in New South Wales, and later attended college at the University of Sydney in Australia. She was an active feminist and outwardly left-winged. She gave a speech at a Vietnam Moratorium march in 1970 that is said to have started the second wave of feminist movements in Australia. She moved to New York City in 1979 where she wrote articles and op-ed pieces for multiple newspapers and magazines. She married a graphic designer in 1987, but he died a short 12 years after they wed. She won many awards for her works— most of which were recognized world-wide.
Moral Hazard is the story of a couple, Cathy and Bailey, and how they each struggle with Bailey’s mental health condition. Bailey has Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects memory, body movement, and inhibits learning. Bailey is in pain for the majority of his days, which is painful for Cathy to handle. She spends most of her time taking care of Bailey, giving him baths, changing his clothes and diapers, etc. His mental state has become more comparable to a young child; constantly watching and taking care of them because they cannot do it themselves. The story goes on to end with Cathy’s decision to end Bailey’s life by assisted suicide. Throughout the story, Bailey shows a desire to live and continue fighting his disease, but Cathy reaches a point where she sees him in too much pain the majority of the time to consciously let him live any longer. Essentially she wants to put him out of his misery, but there is an incredibly controversial moral decision she makes— actually killing him.
Kant argues that as humans we have “good will.” He defines good will as a thought or action that is motivated by a sense of moral duty and not a desire or gut feeling. If you put Kant’s argument into the perspective of Cathy’s decision to end Bailey’s life, you can truly argue both sides. On one end the argument could be that, although Bailey expressed a desire to live, Cathy had a feeling or an intuition that Bailey was in too much pain to continue living, even if he did not admit it himself.
In that case, Kant would argue that her decision was immoral, and therefore wrong of her to do. On the other hand, you could also argue that as his wife she has a moral duty of obligation to help her husband if he was in pain and end his suffering. Kant would then argue that Cathy ending Bailey’s life was a good, moral action and stays within the guideline of ‘good will’. In addition to those arguments, there is also the idea of whether or not she, as his wife, had the right to make that decision for him. Should his family have made the decision, or is she now legally responsible for that decision because she is his wife? Legally, she did have the right to decide whether or not to terminate his life based on his illness. Morally, however, I truly do not believe that she had the right to make a decision to end another human being’s life, regardless of legal power. I do not believe her motivation was by moral duty, but more as an intuition she felt would be the right choice— not good will, as Kant would argue. Her moral duty was to care for her husband in sickness and in health, and do for him what he desired for himself. I strongly believe it was his decision to make, not hers.