The argument for the moral permissibility of killing newborns is a challenge to liberal positions on abortion because it can be considered a reductio of their defence of abortion. Here I defend the liberal stance on abortion by arguing that the argument for the moral permissibility of killing newborns on ground of the social, psychological and economic burden on the parents recently put forward by Giubilini and Minerva is not valid; this is because they fail to show that newborns cannot (...) be harmed and because there are morally relevant differences between fetuses and newborns. (shrink)
The concept of minimal risk plays a key role in federal regulations on the protection of human research subjects. Although there has been considerable discussion of the meaning of minimal risk, the question of how this concept should be interpreted in research involving pregnant women and fetuses has not been addressed. This essay reviews the literature on minimal risk and argues for an interpretation of that concept in the context of research involving pregnant women and fetuses.
Public policy decisions concerning embryos and fetuses tend to lack reasoned argument on their moral status. While agreement on personhood is elusive, this concept has unquestioned moral relevance. A stipulated usage of the term, the psychic sense of ‘person’, applies to early human prenatal life and encompasses morally relevant aspects of personhood. A ‘person’ in the psychic sense has (1) a minimal psychology, defined as the capacity to retain experiences, which may be nonconscious, through physiological analogs of memory; and (2) (...) the potential to become a person in the full sense. Psychic personhood merits attribution of moral personhood because (1) the experience of a ‘person’ in the psychic sense has continuity with the experience of a full person; and (2) this experience begins to determine the development of the personal psychological characteristics of that individual. Psychic personhood is a rationally defensible boundary for invasive research involving human embryos and fetuses. Lacking precise empirical knowledge, policy makers could attribute psychic personhood at the time of earliest brainstem activity, that is, during the seventh week of fetal development. Keywords: personhood, fetal moral status, fetal psychology, potential person, human experimentation CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
The production of a number of vaccines involves the use of cell-lines originally derived from fetuses directly aborted in the 1960s and 1970s. Such cell-lines, indeed sometimes the very same ones, are important to on-going research, including at Catholic institutions. The cells currently used are removed by a number of decades and by a significant number of cellular generations from the original cells. Moreover, the original cells extracted from the bodies of the aborted fetuses were transformed to produce the cell (...) lines, since otherwise they would be incapable of the kind of culturing that is required. (shrink)
From the perspective of investigators conducting research involving pregnant women and fetuses, a woman's decision about whether to have an abortion can sometimes be relevant to the suitability of the woman and fetus as research subjects. However, prominent ethicists disagree over whether it is permissible for a woman's decision about abortion to be an inclusion or exclusion criterion for participation in research. A widely held view is that fetuses to be aborted and fetuses to be carried to term should be (...) treated equally as research subjects. Some hold that this principle implies that a woman's decision about whether to have an abortion should not be an inclusion or exclusion criterion. This paper identifies types of research in which investigators might want to have inclusion or exclusion criteria based on decisions about abortion. It examines the arguments for and against having the woman's decision about abortion included in such criteria. It is argued that there are types of research in which such criteria are ethically permissible. (shrink)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The production of a number of vaccines involves the use of cell-lines originally derived from fetuses directly aborted in the 1960s and 1970s.Â Such cell-lines, indeed sometimes the very same ones, are important to on-going research, including at Catholic institutions.Â The cells currently used are removed by a number of decades and by a significant number of cellular generations from the original cells.Â Moreover, the original cells extracted from the bodies (...) of the aborted fetuses were transformed to produce the cell lines, since otherwise they would be incapable of the kind of culturing that is required. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â It is generally acknowledged by ethicists, including many Catholic ones generally considered to be orthodox, and by the U.S. bishops, that the use of the cell-lines in connection with the production of vaccines is morally permissible.Â It does not appear that there is a relevant qualitative difference between the use of the cell-lines in vaccines and in research.Â One might argue that there is certainty of benefit from a vaccine while the benefits of research are uncertain.Â However, in any given case of the administration of a vaccine to an individual, it is far from certain that such administration will be of benefit to that individual.Â After all, the individual might never come in contact with someone infected with the disease in question, particularly if the disease is now uncommon in the individualÂ’s locale.Â Yet, it is morally certain that some of the administrations of the vaccine will be beneficial.Â This is parallel to the fact that while any one research project might not be beneficial, the history of biomedical research makes it extremely probable, indeed morally certain, that some project involving the use of such cell-lines will be beneficial.Â There may, of course, be quantitative difference between the casesÂ—the probabilities and benefits may not be equalÂ—but the difference does not seem to be a qualitative one.Â Therefore, if one accepts the use of the cell-lines in vaccines, one should accept the use in research in at least some conceivable and perhaps actual circumstances. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The main argument I am interested in in favor of the use of the cell-lines proceeds by first granting that the initial abortion and extraction of cells from the deceased fetus was morally gravely illicit.Â However, the connection between the currently used derived cells and the abortion and original derivation is sufficiently remote that the use becomes licit.Â Not all fruit of a poisoned tree is poisoned: it can be morally.... (shrink)
Background To determine (1) whether fetal care paediatric (FCP) and maternal–fetal medicine (MFM) specialists harbour differing attitudes about pregnancy termination for congenital fetal conditions, their perceived responsibilities to pregnant women and fetuses, and the fetus as a patient and (2) whether self-perceived primary responsibilities to fetuses and women and views about the fetus as a patient are associated with attitudes about clinical care. Methods Mail survey of 434 MFM and FCP specialists (response rates 60.9% and 54.2%, respectively). Results MFMs were (...) more likely than FCPs to disagree with these statements (all p values<0.005): (1) ‘the presence of a fetal abnormality is not an appropriate reason for a couple to consider pregnancy termination’ (MFM : FCP—78.4% vs 63.5%); (2) ‘the effects that a child born with disabilities might have on marital and family relationships is not an appropriate reason for a couple to consider pregnancy termination’ (MFM : FCP—80.5% vs 70.2%); and (3) ‘the cost of healthcare for the future child is not an appropriate reason for a couple to consider pregnancy termination’ (MFM : FCP—73.5% vs 55.9%). 65% MFMs versus 47% FCPs disagreed that their professional responsibility is to focus primarily on fetal well-being (p<0.01). Specialists did not differ regarding the fetus as a separate patient. Responses about self-perceived responsibility to focus on fetal well-being were associated with clinical practice attitudes. Conclusions Independent of demographic and sociopolitical characteristics, FCPs and MFMs possess divergent ethical sensitivities regarding pregnancy termination, pregnant women and fetuses, which may influence clinical care. (shrink)
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are very serious malformations for the fetus, causing either low life expectancy or a chance of survival only with costly and difficult surgical interventions. In western countries the average prevalence is 1/1000-2000 and in Turkey it is 4/1000. The aim of the study was to characterize ethical approaches at institutional level to the fetus with an NTD and the mother, and the role of health care professionals in four major centers in Turkey. The authors chose perinatology (...) units of four university hospitals and prepared questionnaires for the responsible professionals concerning their own and their institution’s ethical approaches to the fetus with an NTD and the mother. The investigation revealed that there were no institutional ethical frameworks or ethics committees available to professional teams in the units. The roles of the health care professionals and their individual decisions and approaches based on ethical principles are described. The ethical decision-making process concerning fetuses with NTDs, examples of institutional approaches to the topic and institutional frameworks, and the role of nurses and other health care professionals are all discussed, based on a literature review. The authors suggest that institutional ethical frameworks, ethics committees, professionals’ ethics education and multidisciplinary teamwork should be established for critical situations such as fetuses with an NTD. (shrink)
Embryology is an intensely visual field, and it has provided the public with images of human embryos and fetuses. The responses to these images can be extremely powerful and personal, and the images (as well as our reactions to them) are conditioned by social and political agendas. The image of the 'autonomous fetus' abstracts the fetus from the mother, the womb, and from all social contexts, thereby emphasizing 'individuality'. The image of 'sacred DNA' emphasizes DNA as the unmoved mover, the (...) eidos, the soul of the human being. Since fertilization involves the forming of a new constellation of DNA in the zygote, the act of fertilization is being perceived as the secular and technical equivalent of ensoulment. This privileges fertilization above the other possible scientifically valued times when 'human life' begins. (shrink)
This paper identifies the legal and policy framework relating to the use of aborted fetuses in stem cell research and therapies and contrasts this with the collection of embryos for research. It suggests that more attention should be given to questions about the kind of consent sought by researchers from women and that there should be more transparency about how aborted fetuses are used. It reports on variability in current practices of research ethics committees and researchers and uncertainty about the (...) guidance available to them. It argues that there is a need for wide public discussion about the policy issues relating to fetal tissue use in stem cell research and the need for clarification of the law in this area. (shrink)
Some have argued that embryos and fetuses have the moral status of personhood because of certain criteria that are satisfied during gestation. However, these attempts to base personhood during gestation on intrinsic characteristics have uniformly been unsuccessful. Within a secular framework, another approach to establishing a moral standing for embryos and fetuses is to argue that we ought to confer some moral status upon them. There appear to be two main approaches to defending conferred moral standing; namely, consequentialist and contractarian (...) arguments. This article puts forward a consequentialist argument for the conferred moral standing of preembryos, embryos, fetuses, and infants. It states and defends an original version of the commonlyheld view that moral standing increases during gestation. It also explores the implications of this viewpoint for several issues: what is involved in showing ‘respect’ for preembryos; and whether it is permissible to create preembryos solely for research. (shrink)
Olson (1997a) tries to refute the Psychological Approach to personal identity with his Fetus Argument, and Mackie (1999) aims to do the same with the Death Argument. With the help of a suggestion made by Baker (1999), the following discussion shows that these arguments fail. In the process of defending the Psychological Approach, it is made clear exactly what one is and is not committed to as a proponent of the theory.
Part One addresses the question whether the fact that some persons love something, worship it, or deeply care about it, can endow moral status on that thing. I argue that the answer is “no.” While some cases lend great plausibility to the view that love or worship can endow moral status, there are other cases in which love or worship clearly fails to endow moral status. Furthermore, there is no principled way to distinguish these two types of cases, so we (...) must conclude that love or worship never endow moral status. Part Two takes up the hard question of why we have to be careful of things that others love or worship, given that the things do not thereby have moral status. I argue that it is sometimes bad for those who love or worship the things if we mistreat them. I develop an account of when love and worship, and person projects more generally, succeed in expanding the scope of what counts as good or bad for the person engaged in the project. (shrink)
Those who favor and those who oppose the interruption of pregnancy with anencephalic fetuses answer the question ‘what is the right to life?’ differently. Those in favor argue that life exists only when it is ‘viable’; that is to say, when cerebral activities occur or may occur. Those who oppose it argue that it is not possible to describe ‘life’ as residing in a particular quality, since life ‘exists from conception’. In fact, in both cases, the noun ‘life’ is being (...) defined by a particular quality, either as ‘viable’ or as ‘existing from the time of conception’. Also, simply saying that ‘there is life’ cannot count as a neutral answer since those who utter such a sentence employ an unspecified criterion to establish if there is life or not. There are two possible ways to investigate this controversial matter: either we look for a definition of ‘life’ which is neutral and objective and does not reside in a particular quality or we try to establish whether or not the search for a neutral point of view can lead to a satisfactory answer. In this article we explore the argument against the interruption of pregnancy – as defined above – in order to show 1) the impossibility of establishing a neutral point of view regarding knowledge; 2) the existence of a psychological motivation which justifies the longing for an absolute criterion for the evaluation of human actions. This psychological motivation is analyzed from a Nietzschean perspective. (shrink)
The medical treatment in utero of human beings raises several ethical questions. I argue that treatment is sufficient to establish the fetus as person; and consider how conflicts between the interests of the fetus and mother are to be resolved when such treatment is proposed. My arguments rest upon a ‘relational model’ of ethical discourse derived from H. Richard Niebuhr's “ethics of the fitting.”I conclude that the limitation of personal autonomy is rarely justified, but may be when direct, grave, harm (...) to others is imminent; and that educative rather than punitive measures are the best prospect for protecting fetal life. (shrink)
The status of human embryos is discussedparticularly in the light of the claim by Fox,in Health Care Analysis 8 that itwould be useful to think of them in terms ofcyborg metaphors.It is argued that we should consider humanembryos for what they are – partiallyformed human bodies – rather than for what theyare like in some respects (and unlike inothers) – cyborgs.However to settle the issue of the status ofthe embryo is not to answer the moral questionswhich arise concerning how embryos (...) should betreated. Since persons rather than bodies haverights, embryos do not have rights. However,whether or not embryos have rights, people canhave duties concerning them. Furthermore, thepersons whose fully developed bodies embryoswill, might (or might have) become can haverights. Contrary to what is often assumed, itis not merely persons who have (or have had)living, developed human bodies who have moralrights: so it is argued in this paper. (shrink)
Don Marquis has put forward a non-religious argument against abortion based on what he claims is a morally relevant similarity between killing adult human beings and killing fetuses. He asserts that killing adults is wrong because it deprives them of their valuable futures. He points out that a fetus’s future includes everything that is in an adult’s future, given that fetuses naturally develop into adults. Thus, according to Marquis, killing a fetus deprives it of the same sort of valuable future (...) that an adult is deprived of in being killed and this makes abortion seriously wrong. Commentators have raised a number of objections to Marquis’s argument, to which he has satisfactorily responded. In this paper, difficulties with Marquis’s argument that have not been considered by previous commentators are pointed out. A main thesis of this paper is that Marquis does not adequately defend his argument against several important objections that he himself has raised. These new considerations support the view that Marquis’s argument is unsuccessful. (shrink)
It is sometimes suggested that if a moral theory implies that infanticide can sometimes be permissible, that is sufficient to discredit the theory. I argue in this article that the common-sense belief that infanticide is wrong, and perhaps even worse than the killing of an adult, is challenged not so much by theoretical considerations as by common-sense beliefs about abortion, the killing of non-human animals, and so on. Because there are no intrinsic differences between premature infants and viable fetuses, it (...) is difficult to accept that an abortion performed after the point of viability can be permissible while denying that infanticide can be permissible for a comparably important reason. This and other challenges to the consistency of our intuitions exert pressure on us either to accept the occasional permissibility of infanticide or to reject liberal beliefs about abortion. (shrink)
Better Never to Have Been argues for a number of related, highly provocative, views: (1) Coming into existence is always a serious harm. (2) It is always wrong to have children. (3) It is wrong not to abort fetuses at the earlier stages of gestation. (4) It would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. These views may sound unbelievable--but anyone who reads Benatar will be obliged to take them seriously.
: Embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to save many lives, must be recovered from aborted fetuses or live embryos. Although tissue from aborted fetuses can be used without moral complicity in the underlying abortion, obtaining stem cells from embryos necessarily kills them, thus raising difficult questions about the use of embryonic human material to save others. This article draws on previous controversies over embryo research and distinctions between intrinsic and symbolic moral status to analyze these issues. It argues (...) that stem cell research with spare embryos produced during infertility treatment, or even embryos created specifically for research or therapeutic purposes, is ethically acceptable and should receive federal funding. (shrink)
In Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007) Francis Beckwith argues that fetuses are such that, from conception, they are prima facie wrong to kill. He thinks abortion is almost never permissible beyond rare cases where, unless the fetus is killed, both the pregnant woman and the fetus will die. He defends his view not from religiously-justified premises but by appealing to “a particular metaphysics of the human person” that he calls “The Substance (...) View.” I will argue that such metaphysics is irrelevant to the morality of abortion. Beckwith’s metaphysics thereby neither supports, nor detracts from, his abortion ethic. Moral, not metaphysical, assumptions drive the argument, and Beckwith inadequately defends these assumptions. Indeed, they are often false, and his main argument is unsound. (130 words). (shrink)
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion (...) is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled. (shrink)
It seems that if abortion is permissible, then stem cell research must be as well: it involves the death of a less signiﬁcant thing (an embryo rather than a fetus) for a greater good (lives saved rather than nine months of physical imposition avoided). However, I argue in this essay that this natural thought is mistaken. In particular, on the assumption that embryos and fetuses have the full moral status of persons, abortion is permissible but one form of stem cell (...) research is notFthe practice of creating embryos and then destroying them to extract cell.. (shrink)