Saving Seven Embryos or Saving One Child? Michael Sandel on the Moral Status of Human Embryos

Journal of Philosophical Research 32 (Ethics and the Life Sciences):239-245 (2007)
Authors
Gregor Damschen
University of Oldenburg
Abstract
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, however, that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos.
Keywords Embryo  biomedical ethics  bioethics  moral status of embryos  Michael Sandel
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Reprint years 2007
ISBN(s) 1053-8364
DOI 10.5840/jpr_2007_18
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