Paying addicts to get sterilised: a “nudge” or a “shove”?

Project Prevention, a US charity that pays drug addicts $300 if they prove they have been sterilised is coming to the UK. I’m not going to use this post to take a position on the debate about whether addicts should be discouraged from having children.

What interests me is whether this approach goes beyond the libertarian paternalism promoted in ‘Nudge‘ (Thaler & Sunstein) and what the social marketing approach to this problem would be. This certainly is a behaviour intervention; the behaviour being, parenting children while being a drug addict. The specific behaviour being encouraged is the uptake of sterilisation, and the exchange is $300 (and possibly emotional costs or benefits to the person involved).

I wonder though, whether the offer of $300 to a drug addict is more than a nudge? In the same way that minors are protected from certain advertising, should drug addicts be protected from the opportunity to gain $300 (short term benefit) in exchange for an action with long-term consequences (sterilisation)? Are they in a fit state to make that kind of decision? A compromise (more of a nudge than a shove) which occurred to me, and in fact is mentioned quietly among the sensation of sterilisation, is the offer only of  long-term contraceptive approaches e.g. the three month injection. This would still achieve the goal of protecting the rights of unborn children, while also protecting vulnerable adults from making irreversible choices. And would give a quarterly opportunity to introduce the addict to opportunities to gain treatment and rehabilitation.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the UK Social Marketing voices to see if Project Prevention raises any comments among them.


1 Comment

Filed under Social Marketing challenges

One response to “Paying addicts to get sterilised: a “nudge” or a “shove”?

  1. Similar money-for-sterilization programs have been conducted in countries like India, where it’s ostensibly a voluntary choice for poor women. But when you don’t have money to feed your family and money is dangled in front of you, do they really feel like they have a choice? Whether drug-addled or simply poor, this type of intervention has definite ethical implications no matter how well meaning the sponsors. I like your compromise of a long-term but not permanent option.

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