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.