The moral status of the human embryo is one of the most important issues in the modern bioethics. It is the foundation stone of medical, philosophic, and legal discussions which divide the scientific community into two parts one of which ignores embryo’s right for being called a human, and the other one defends this right. The opponents and supporters draw strong arguments to advocate their perspectives which serve as the basis for distinct worldviews. In the reviewed case study, four individuals – Dr. Wilson, aunt Maria, Jessica, and Marco, – adhere to four different theoretical positions in making a choice about the abortion. Each of the individual perspectives explains the issue of the moral status of the fetus and the beginning of human life in its own way.
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Dr. Wilson: Scientific perspective
Dr. Wilson sticks to a scientific approach to abortion considering it a clever solution in the situation when a fetus has developmental abnormalities. From the biomedical perspective, the beginning of life is correlated with the moment of complete formation of different body systems or the time of birth itself (Ştefan, 2014). From this point of view, various organism functions, such as spontaneous breathing, are related to the independent being of a fetus, and this stance justifies abortion at the early stages of prenatal development when the vital body functions of an embryo are not developed yet. With this in mind, Dr. Wilson suggests a “therapeutic” abortion which, as he believes, may allow the parents to avoid the negative consequences associated with the child’s health problems and adverse impact on the family’s well-being (Ştefan, 2014). Dr. Wilson considers that the birth of the child with severe health conditions will lead to more dramatic consequences for the parents and the child him/herself, and regards abortion as a less problematic choice in this situation. From this perspective, a fetus on the fourth month of development has no moral status, and the act of abortion thus does not have significant ethical implications.
Aunt Marie: Theological perspective
Aunt Maria evaluates the situation from the diametrically opposite point of view. She is a pious person, and her opinion is strongly influenced by the religious values. According to the theological perspective, the human embryo should be considered a human being from the moment of conception. It means that any action taken against a fetus is oriented against a person. Therefore, abortion is regarded as murder, a highly unethical act (Ştefan, 2014). Based on this, aunt Marie believes that it is right to give birth to a child no matter how healthy or unhealthy it may be because, even at the earliest developmental stages, the life of a human is sacred and cannot be ended according to the will of any other person. Her decision is rooted in the idea that any event or phenomenon is God’s intent, and people should allow them to happen even if they may face severe hardships because of this.
Jessica and Marco: Relationship theory
Jessica shares aunt’s Marie values and considers human life sacred. Additionally, it is possible to say that her opinion, as well as the view of her husband, may be influenced by the principles of relationship theory. From this perspective, the concepts of mother and father include the moral-intentional content. The child-parent relationships imply parental responsibilities for the protection of a child and maintenance of his or her welfare (Cole-Turner, Fitzgerald, Waters, & Zoloth, 2002). Parenthood is a vital social function, wherein the interests of children are pivotal. The given view dominates in many societies and largely impacts parents’ decisions about the termination of pregnancy. In the given framework, abortion has many psychological and social implications which challenge Jessica’s decision.
On the one hand, there is the desire to become a good mother and fulfill her social role no matter how difficult it may be due to the adverse health condition of the child. But on the other hand, there is a fear to be condemned by the society for putting the economic welfare above the child’s life. Therefore, the relationships theory refers to the spheres of both private and public morality. It also seems that the parents are torn between two conflicting views of the moral status of the fetus. They may think that early fetuses that die in abortions have no moral status, but, at the same time, they may have an intuition that the fetuses have potential to become persons in the future and, therefore, they have some moral status. In this way, since there is a high level of uncertainty about the moral status of the fetus, Jessica and Marco may justify both positive and negative decision about abortion.
Conclusion: Personal attitude
In my opinion, it is right to follow the principles of the relationships theory and the moral-intentional approach in the given situation. This perspective implies that at least two subjects are needed for the moral decision to be undertaken. Thus, it is hard to deny that embryos as the subjects of moral attitude have some moral status. Nevertheless, there is the distinction between the moral status of an adult and a fetus. This distinctive feature is the defencelessness of the developing life – it cannot response to violence or stand against the unjust decisions. However, this quality of the early fetal development increases the degree of parental moral responsibility for it, and the consequent decision regarding termination of pregnancy may reflect the level of individual ethical development.
Cole-Turner, R., Fitzgerald, K., Waters, B., & Zoloth, L. (2002). Moral status of the human embryo. Pew Research Center. Web.
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Ştefan, I. (2014). Arguments for and against abortion in terms of teleological and deontological theories. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 149, 927-935. Web.