Jessica is a 30-year-old immigrant from Mexico City. She and her husband Marco have been in the United States for the last three years and have finally earned enough money to move out of their
Case Study: Fetal Abnormality
Jessica is a 30-year-old immigrant from Mexico City. She and her husband Marco have been in the United States for the last three years and have finally earned enough money to move out of their Aunt Maria’s home and into an apartment of their own. They are both hard workers. Jessica works 50 hours a week at a local restaurant and Marco has been contracting side jobs in construction. Six months before their move to an apartment, Jessica finds out she is pregnant.
Four months later, Jessica and Marco arrive at the county hospital, a large, public, nonteaching hospital. A preliminary ultrasound indicates a possible abnormality with the fetus. Further scans are conducted, and it is determined that the fetus has a rare condition in which it has not developed any arms and will not likely develop them. There is also a 25% chance that the fetus may have Down syndrome.
Dr. Wilson, the primary attending physician, is seeing Jessica for the first time, since she and Marco did not receive earlier prenatal care over concerns about finances. Marco insists that Dr. Wilson refrain from telling Jessica the scan results, assuring him that he will tell his wife himself when she is emotionally ready for the news. While Marco and Dr. Wilson are talking in another room, Aunt Maria walks into the room with a distressed look on her face. She can tell that something is wrong and inquires of Dr. Wilson. After hearing of the diagnosis, she walks out of the room wailing loudly and praying aloud.
Marco and Dr. Wilson continue their discussion, and Dr. Wilson insists that he has an obligation to Jessica as his patient and that she has a right to know the diagnosis of the fetus. He furthermore is intent on discussing all relevant factors and options regarding the next step, including abortion. Marco insists on taking some time to think of how to break the news to Jessica, but Dr. Wilson, frustrated with the direction of the conversation, informs the husband that such a choice is not his to make.
Dr. Wilson proceeds back across the hall, where he walks in on Aunt Maria awkwardly praying with Jessica and phoning the priest. At that point, Dr. Wilson gently but briefly informs Jessica of the diagnosis and lays out the option for abortion as a responsible medical alternative, given the quality of life such a child would have. Jessica looks at him and struggles to hold back her tears.
Jessica is torn between her hopes of a better socioeconomic position and increased independence, along with her conviction that all life is sacred. Marco will support Jessica in whatever decision she makes but is finding it difficult not to view the pregnancy and the prospects of a disabled child as a burden and a barrier to their economic security and plans.
Dr. Wilson lays out all of the options but clearly makes his view known that abortion is “scientifically” and medically a wise choice in this situation. Aunt Maria pleads with Jessica to follow through with the pregnancy and allow what “God intends” to take place and urges Jessica to think of her responsibility as a mother.
Based on “Case Study: Fetal Abnormality” and other required topic study materials, write a 750-1,000-word reflection that answers the following questions:
- What is the Christian view of the nature of human persons, and which theory of moral status is it compatible with? How is this related to the intrinsic human value and dignity?
- Which theory or theories are being used by Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson to determine the moral status of the fetus? What from the case study specifically leads you to believe that they hold the theory you selected?
- How does the theory determine or influence each of their recommendations for action?
- What theory do you agree with? Why? How would that theory determine or influence the recommendation for action?
Remember to support your responses with the topic study materials.
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Expert Answer and Explanation
Case Study on Moral Status
The Christian View of the Nature of Human Persons
The nature of human persons, according to Christianity, is guided by the biblical beliefs of the creation and composition of man. Christians believe that humans are a creation of God, and meant to fulfill that which was purposed of them. It is from this perspective that the nature of a human person is derived according to the Christian perspective.
Christians also believe that humans were born sacred, and it is through their encounters with the events of this world that their sacred nature is tainted. This perspective removes the nature of a human person as a mere construct of biological features that can be created and altered using artificial procedures (Grenz, 2015).
The perceptions of Christianity on the nature of a human person go hand in hand with the theory of moral status based on human properties. This theory explains that human life begins immediately after fertilization and that the fetus, while still in the womb, has the same moral status as an adult. This theory, therefore, recognizes that a human being and the nature of a human person is already inherent when the child is still developing in the mother’s womb.
The theory of moral status based on human properties highlights the fact that human value and moral status are inherent from the period when a human is conceived. Human value and dignity are considered intrinsic in that they are not formulated by humans; rather, they are inherently part of a human. Human dignity can be termed as the inherent value that ever human has by virtue of being human.
This puts the intrinsic value of all humans to be on the same level (Andorno & Pele, 2017). The Christian view of a human person, together with the theory of moral status, therefore asserts the dignity of a human being the moment conception occurs. As such, a human is supposed to be valued from that point in time.
Theories of Moral Status Used by Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson
Jessica uses two moral theories in choosing the moral status of the child. The first theory is the moral theory based on cognitive properties, where Jessica considers the future in relation to socioeconomic position and increased independence. The second is the theory of moral status based on human properties. This is seen where Jessica considers the life of her baby as being sacred, yet it is still unborn. The theory of human properties appreciates the fact that human life begins at fertilization, and it is from then that it gains the moral value and status (Sumner, 2014).
Marco, on the other hand, uses the theory based on moral agency. This is seen where Marco considers himself as the moral agent and can make the right decision on the moral status of the child when the time comes. His actions on deciding the moral status of the child conforms to the theory of moral agency as put forth by Sebo (2017). Marco also uses the theory focused on cognitive properties, where he views the pregnancy from his rational perspective as being a factor that will hinder their financial prospects.
Maria uses the theory on moral status based on human properties, where she considers that the baby is already a human being, and killing it is equivalent to killing a full-grown human being. Using the same theory, Maria already considers Jessica as a mother, despite the child not being born yet. She therefore accords the fetus full moral rights and status.
Dr. Wilson used the theory of moral status based on relationships. The rationale for choosing this as theory is based on his role as the primary attending physician (Fletcher, 2015). This is indicated when Dr. Wilson informs Jessica of the state of the fetus and the options available to her. Dr. Wilson further indicates to Jessica why abortion, in such a case, is considered a scientifically and medically wise decision
Influence of the Theories on their Recommendations for Action
For Jessica and Maria, the theory based on human properties considers the beginning of life starting from fertilization. This theory considers the moral status of the fetus from the stage of fertilization. As such, the two consider that as a fact, therefore, informing their recommendation to be against abortion.
For Marco and also Jessica, they have their recommendation for an action founded on the moral status theory based on cognitive factors. This theory guides them using rationality as a basis in terms of future financial prospects. As for Dr. Wilson, the theory based on relationships guides his recommendation, given the facts at hand based on scientific and medical studies.
I agree with the moral status theory based on relationships. This theory highlights the importance of performing our duty as caregivers, which pertains to giving the patient the correct information, which can help them make an informed decision. The theory by virtue of patient-physician relationship will require of me to recommend the best interceptive measure based on sufficient medical evidence on the matter (Fletcher, 2015). The recommendations given will also consider the spiritual perspectives of those involved, mainly the parents.
Andorno, R., & Pele, A. (2017). Human dignity. Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics, 1-11.
Fletcher, J. F. (2015). Morals and Medicine: the moral problems of the patient’s right to know the truth, contraception, artificial insemination, sterilization, euthanasia. Princeton University Press.
Grenz, S. J. (2016). The moral quest: Foundations of Christian ethics. InterVarsity Press.
Sebo, J. (2017). Agency and moral status. Journal of Moral Philosophy, 14(1), 1-22.
Sumner, L. W. (2014). Abortion and moral theory (Vol. 285). Princeton University Press
Christian Ethical Perspective on the Moral Status of the Human Embryo
In the realm of bioethics, few topics are as intricate and emotionally charged as the moral status of the human embryo. From a Christian ethical standpoint, this issue takes on profound significance. This article delves into the core beliefs and perspectives that guide Christian thought on the moral status of the human embryo.
The Sanctity of Human Life
Christianity places immense importance on the sanctity of human life. At the heart of this perspective lies the belief that human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Consequently, this foundational belief imbues every human life, including the embryo, with intrinsic value and dignity.
The Moment of Conception
From a Christian ethical viewpoint, life begins at the moment of conception. This belief is rooted in biblical references that suggest God’s involvement in the formation of each individual, even in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). Therefore, any deliberate destruction of the embryo is seen as morally unacceptable.
Ensoulment and Personhood
Within Christian thought, there is some diversity regarding the exact moment at which an embryo becomes ensouled and attains personhood. While some argue for immediate ensoulment at conception, others suggest it occurs at a later stage, such as when the embryo develops a functioning brain or a heartbeat. This variation in interpretation can lead to differing ethical perspectives within the Christian community.
Due to this variation in beliefs about ensoulment, many Christian ethical perspectives err on the side of caution. To avoid potentially taking innocent life, they advocate for protecting embryos from the moment of conception.
The Role of Technology
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization (IVF) presents a unique challenge to Christian ethics. While it has helped many couples conceive, IVF often involves the creation of multiple embryos, some of which may not be implanted. This raises ethical questions about the disposal of unused embryos.
Stem Cell Research
Stem cell research, particularly involving embryonic stem cells, also sparks debate within the Christian community. Some argue that using embryonic stem cells for research is morally wrong, while others believe it can be ethically justified if it leads to significant medical advancements that save lives.
The Christian ethical perspective on the moral status of the human embryo is deeply rooted in the belief in the sanctity of human life. This perspective emphasizes the moment of conception as the beginning of life and places a high value on protecting embryos from harm. However, variations in theological interpretations and the ethical dilemmas posed by modern technology continue to challenge this perspective.
1. Is the Christian perspective on the embryo’s moral status universally the same?
No, there is some variation within Christian thought regarding when ensoulment occurs. Some believe it happens at conception, while others propose later stages of development.
2. How do Christians view technologies like in vitro fertilization?
Christians have differing views on technologies like in vitro fertilization. While some embrace it, others have concerns about the creation and potential disposal of unused embryos.
3. Is stem cell research involving embryos considered morally wrong by all Christians?
No, not all Christians view stem cell research involving embryos as morally wrong. Some believe it can be ethically justified if it leads to significant medical advancements.
4. Does the Christian ethical perspective on embryos impact legislation?
Yes, the Christian perspective on embryos can influence legislation, particularly in debates over issues like abortion and embryo research.
5. How does the Christian belief in the sanctity of human life shape their stance on the moral status of embryos?
The belief in the sanctity of human life is central to the Christian perspective on embryos, leading to a strong emphasis on protecting embryos from harm and destruction.
Exploring Theories of Moral Status
In the vast realm of ethical philosophy, one of the most intriguing and deeply debated topics is the concept of moral status. What exactly confers moral worth upon an entity or individual? This question has captivated the minds of philosophers, ethicists, and scholars for centuries. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of moral status theories, shedding light on the various perspectives that have shaped our understanding of morality.
The Significance of Moral Status
Before we embark on our journey through the theories of moral status, it is crucial to grasp the fundamental importance of this concept. Moral status dictates how we should treat different beings and entities in our moral and ethical considerations. It influences our decisions on issues ranging from animal rights and environmental ethics to the ethics of artificial intelligence and biotechnology.
The Human-Centric View: Anthropocentrism
Anthropocentrism is perhaps one of the most traditional and widely known theories of moral status. This perspective asserts that only humans possess intrinsic moral value, and all other entities derive their moral worth based on their utility or relationship to humans. In the realm of anthropocentrism, animals, plants, and inanimate objects hold no inherent moral significance and are valued solely for their instrumental purposes.
The Expanding Circle: Biocentrism
Biocentrism takes a broader view, extending moral consideration beyond humans to encompass all living organisms. This theory recognizes that life itself carries intrinsic value, irrespective of its utility to humans. Proponents of biocentrism argue that animals, plants, and even ecosystems have their own worth and should be respected and protected for their intrinsic value.
Embracing Sentience: Sentientism
Sentientism focuses on the capacity for suffering and pleasure as the foundation for moral status. According to this theory, beings that can experience pain and pleasure are morally considerable. This perspective extends moral consideration not only to humans and animals but also to potentially sentient entities, such as artificial intelligences and advanced alien life forms.
The Rights of the Non-Human: Animal Liberation
A significant branch of moral philosophy known as animal liberation argues for the rights and moral consideration of animals. Scholars like Peter Singer contend that animals possess interests and can suffer, making it imperative for us to extend our ethical concerns to them. This perspective calls for the abolition of practices like factory farming and animal experimentation.
Ecological Interconnectedness: Deep Ecology
Deep ecology takes a holistic approach, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all life forms and ecosystems. This theory posits that we should recognize the intrinsic value of nature and biodiversity as a whole, independent of human interests. Deep ecologists advocate for a profound shift in our relationship with the environment, promoting sustainability and conservation.
Intrinsic Worth of All Beings: Holism
Holism is a comprehensive moral theory that posits that all entities, living and non-living, possess intrinsic worth. This perspective recognizes the interdependence of all things and underscores the need for a holistic approach to ethics. It advocates for a profound respect for the intrinsic value of every aspect of existence.
A Synthesis of Perspectives: Pluralism
Pluralism recognizes the complexity of moral status and acknowledges that no single theory can fully encapsulate it. Instead, it advocates for a synthesis of various perspectives, taking into account the context and nuances of each situation. Pluralists argue that our moral judgments should be flexible and adaptable, considering multiple factors and theories.
In the ever-evolving landscape of ethical philosophy, theories of moral status continue to shape our understanding of how we should navigate the moral complexities of our world. From anthropocentrism to pluralism, each perspective offers a unique lens through which we can contemplate our moral obligations to the diverse entities that share our planet.
As we reflect on these theories, it becomes evident that the concept of moral status is far from monolithic. It is a dynamic and evolving discourse, enriched by diverse perspectives and ongoing debates. In our quest for moral clarity, we must remain open to the complexities and nuances that each theory brings to the table.
In conclusion, the theories of moral status challenge us to think deeply about the moral tapestry of our existence. They remind us that our ethical choices have profound consequences, not only for ourselves but for the entire web of life that surrounds us. As we navigate the intricate terrain of moral philosophy, let us strive to make informed and compassionate decisions that reflect a profound respect for all beings and entities, both human and non-human.
What is the moral status theory based on human properties?
The moral status theory based on human properties is known as “Anthropocentrism.” Anthropocentrism is a perspective in ethical philosophy that asserts that only humans possess intrinsic moral value, and all other entities derive their moral worth based on their utility or relationship to humans. In essence, it is a human-centric view of moral status.
According to anthropocentrism, humans are considered the central focus of moral consideration, and all other beings, whether animals, plants, or inanimate objects, are valued primarily for their instrumental purposes in serving human interests. This theory places a significant emphasis on human exceptionalism, suggesting that humans are the only entities worthy of moral rights and protections.
Anthropocentrism has been a historically dominant perspective in ethical thought, but it has also been met with criticism and challenges from other moral theories that advocate for a more inclusive view of moral status. These alternative theories, such as biocentrism, sentientism, and deep ecology, extend moral consideration beyond humans to encompass other forms of life and entities, based on their intrinsic qualities and capacities.
In summary, anthropocentrism is a moral status theory that assigns moral significance primarily to human properties and relationships, often to the exclusion of other beings and entities in the moral sphere.
What is the moral status theory based on relationships?
The moral status theory based on relationships is known as “Relational Ethics” or “Relational Theory of Moral Status.” This ethical perspective emphasizes the importance of relationships in determining the moral status of individuals or entities. In contrast to theories that focus solely on inherent characteristics or properties, relational ethics argues that the nature and quality of our connections and interactions with others play a crucial role in ascribing moral worth.
Key points of relational ethics include:
- Interconnectedness: This theory highlights the interconnected nature of human relationships. It suggests that our moral obligations are shaped by the web of relationships we engage in, whether they are familial, social, or community-based.
- Context Matters: Relational ethics recognizes that the moral status of an individual or entity can change depending on the context and the specific relationships involved. For example, a person’s moral status within their family might differ from their moral status within a broader societal context.
- Mutual Recognition: Mutual recognition and respect are central to relational ethics. It posits that moral status arises when individuals or entities mutually recognize and respect each other’s needs, interests, and dignity within a given relationship.
- Responsibility: Individuals are seen as having a moral responsibility to foster and maintain positive, respectful relationships. This includes caring for and respecting the well-being of others within their relational sphere.
- Expanding Circles: Relational ethics can extend beyond human relationships to encompass our connections with the environment, animals, and even inanimate objects. This perspective promotes a broader understanding of interconnectedness and moral consideration.
Overall, the relational theory of moral status challenges more traditional theories that rely solely on inherent properties or characteristics, emphasizing the significance of our social and ethical bonds with others in determining moral worth. It encourages us to consider not just what we are, but how we relate to and interact with the world around us when making moral judgments.