Bioethics Discussion Blog: Moral Status of Embryos vs Human Victims of War

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Moral Status of Embryos vs Human Victims of War

I was reading in the current issue of American Journal of Bioethics regarding the view of the President's Council on Bioethics describing the Majority members view expressing full moral status to the extra-corporeal human 14 cell embryo and arguing against the "routinely and large scale" destruction of these embryos for therapeutic stem cell research. I suspect our President, based on his statements and actions, agrees with that view. What I was wondering is whether there is some philosophical explanation or rationalization of his view for full moral status and protection against destruction of the embryos when our President can initiate a war which involves the gross destruction of innocent born sentient humans, including perhaps unborn embryos, all of whom by the view of the Majority have full and highest moral status. The President might argue that he initiated the war for a good. One can also argue that destruction of embryos for stem cell research is also for a good. Is there something, from a philosophical aspect that I am missing in attempting to understand our President? Does one good trump the other good? If there are some philosophers out in blogland who can explain what seems to me to be an inconsistency, I would most appreciate it. ..Maurice.

2 Comments:

At Sunday, December 18, 2005 9:12:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Somehow, this is like comparing apples and oranges. While I wouldn't want to try to defend war ... I have to say that those who went to this war did do for a "greater good."

Experimenting with pieces, parts ... whatever ... of human embryos is another story. I think that as humans, we should all be rather uncomfortable with an idea that could lead to a market in breeding humans (to whatever developmental stage) for parts.

Creating a market for unborn babies borders on some pretty nightmarish concepts ... not a world I'm sure I want to live to see.

 
At Tuesday, February 14, 2006 8:26:00 PM, Blogger Jason said...

In reply to Maurice's initial post, I would say that you need to be very careful as to how you describe this issue. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume that a "14-cell embryo" in a petri dish does not necessarily constitute human life. If this is established, then we can continue.

Of course, just to entertain the other side, you must acknowledge that if that embryo is in fact seen as a full-fledged citizen, it is probably the most defenseless and vulnerable that a citizen could be. This would be a good reason to legislate for protection of embryos--if you choose to accept them as people with yours and my rights on this earth.

However, since this entity (a 14-cell embyro) can experience no love, emotions, feelings, sensations, pain, or pleasure, I have a hard time considering it human life.

So, I think you got yourself into a bit of philosophical trouble by insinuating that there is a discrepancy in the right wing thinking concerning their rationale for both the war and for embryos.

Members of the armed forces autonomously signed up for their job. There are really cruel groups of people (governments) that regularly infringe upon the rights of others. Our government has decided to try to stop some of this in Iraq in the same way that we have tried to stop such tyranny in the world throughout our nation's history. Perhaps one could even see our efforts abroad as attempts to share the negative impact of a malicious government with other innocent people of Iraq. They already had a bad situation. We could watch, or we could try to help. I guess my point is that foreign policy often takes focus off the individual and moves it more to a utilitarian viewpoint: the most good for the most people. And, this seems fairly logical when you think of the consequences of a tyrannical government obtaining enough weaponry to erase half of the US population in a couple of days. It's a chess game. And it's very different from bioethics, in my opinion.

If the President and his Majority view embryos as humans, I believe that they are fairly consistent in their stance. They still want to protect the most people from death. I don't, however, think there is a lot of focus on the individual. There is not a lot of talk about the 13 year old girl that would rather have cancer than be pregnant. There is not a lot of talk about the delirious man with Parkinson's that may regain respect and autonomy with the help of stem cell research.

In bioethics, the individual is all important. Every human person matters and deserves autonomy and compassion. So, I would suggest that we give the Majority credit for maintaining some consistency. But, as I am taught in medical school, consistency is no substitute for accuracy.

 

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