“The Morality of Killing Human Embryos”

Here are bullet points which summarize “The Morality of Killing Human Embryos”  by the philosopher Bonnie Steinbock:

  • Are embryonic stem cells persons? Do they have moral status?
  • Some things don’t have moral status—rocks—some things have more status than others—people than fish.
  • People have moral status because they’re homo-sapiens.
  • But when do they become human organisms?
  • Some say at conception, but this is at odds with the facts of modern biology.
  • Biologically, a genuine and unique organism presents itself at implantation—at about 14 days.
  • And biological humanity does not imply moral status—as the examples of extraterrestrials and persons in vegetative states show. Some humans aren’t people, and some people aren’t humans.
  • One could object to #7 by asking why should we limit moral status to persons.
  • Might there be a middle ground between the biological and personhood views of moral status?
  • We may think of moral status as corresponding with having interests or a stake in something.
  • A being must have interests to have moral rights and status.
  • Non-conscious beings do not have interests, nothing matters to them.
  • And we do have a good idea of what it’s like to be conscious—conscious beings have interests.
  • Embryos do not have consciousness or interests and hence no moral status.
  • What about the argument that it was in one’s interest not to have been killed as a fetus?
  • Steinbock counter that one never was an unconscious fetus, one comes to be when one is conscious.
  • Steinbock also argues that it does not matter to you if you are aborted before you are conscious.
  • At any rate, embryos outside of bodies have no future.
  • Most of these embryos have no future even if implanted.
  • Cloned embryos have no chance of have a future, hence they are even less morally problematic.
  • It is morally acceptable to use embryos in research because they have no moral status.

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