Precautionary Principle Analysis

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In Cass Sunsten’s book entitled, Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle, Sunstein discusses the shortcomings of the Precautionary Principle. Sunstein expresses that the Precautionary Principle does not just lead to bad outcomes, but that it can be paralyzing. He articulates how governments or regulatory groups must protect against potential harmful things even if it is unknown that these harms will actually come to be. He sees that risk exist in all social situations, but precautionary steps also can create their own dangers. Depending on culture, different types of risk are focused upon. Things like peer pressure can emphasize some fears and yet reduce others. Sunstein thinks that rather than adopting what is known a the Precautionary…show more content…
Until we feel safe, we are very cautious. Most people live by the motto, “better safe than sorry”. For example, we buy insurance even thought the likelihood of needing it is slim. A lot of people feel the same way about how regulations and laws should be approached.

Different places and different people will choose which risks need precautions. Sunstein points out that psychology can explain this. He focuses on five factors – the availability heuristic, probability neglect, loss aversion, a belief in benevolence of nature and system neglect.

Availability heuristic allows people to evaluate risk based on their own past experiences. This makes sense, as it is only natural to relate things to things that you have experienced in your own life. With respect to assisted suicide, your view on it probably is related to an experience you have had or someone close to you has had. For example, if you have witnessed a loved one suffer from an incurable disease and suffer in pain with no hope of recovery, you probably believe that assisted suicide is necessary. On the other hand, if you have witnessed someone miraculously be cured from what was thought to be terminal, you would probably think
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46 Sunstein centres his discussion on probability neglect. He demonstrates how emotions can affect risk assessment. With respect to assisted suicide, people who have not thought of the potential risks of its legalization may begin to have doubts if read or hear more arguments against it. Regarding this issue, I have gone through this myself. I do strongly support legalizing assisted suicide, but after reading numerous arguments against it, it made me doubt my belief somewhat. Although it hasn’t changed my opinion, it has made me think that when this officially legal, a specific procedure will have to be outlined and strictly followed in order to negate the concerns of arguments such as the “slippery

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