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Statistical Paternalism

The author introduces and argues for a new standard for justifiable paternalism, the Most Reliable Judgment Standard. According to the Most Reliable Judgment Standard, a person's hypothetical future judgments about paternalistic intervention can be used to justify paternalistic intervention in that person's present choices. Often, people's current judgments are the most reliable predictor of their future judgments; but not always. In some cases statistical data on how people's judgments have changed over time provide a more reliable predictor of an individual's future judgments. The author considers how statistical evidence on attitudes toward suicide intervention, drug prohibitions, and forced medical care could be used to determine which can be justified on paternalistic grounds. Because relevant statistical evidence is lacking in many cases, the author concludes with suggestions for further research.