Is the human fetus human like others?

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On Friday, June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs Wade ruling, which had recognized since 1973 the right tomiscarriage in the United States of America.

At the heart of the discussions is the question of standingfetus And the fetus.

The opportunity to assess the status attributed to them in both the bioethical and legislature debates in our country.

The difference between “people” and “things”

Many aspects of French law derive from Roman law. To the latter in particular, we owe the existence of two legal modes: mode People and that from Things. For Roman law, beings living in the sub-world fall into these two categories. Things usually have an owner, they can be bought and sold, used or destroyed by whoever owns them. This is not the case for people who are, moreover, subject to the law. Adult humans are typical examples of people.

The question of the legal status of some organisms is sometimes more controversial. This is the case for animals, for example: an Argentine court recently sentenced a female orangutan living in a zoo The status of a “non-human person”. But living organisms are not the only ones involved, with New Zealand in 2017 conferring person status in the Whanganui . RiverThus ensuring protection and rights. A few days later, India did the same with The Ganges and Yamuna River.

At the moral level, the concept of moral status plays a role similar to that of the legal status of law. To have a moral status is to possess a morally important value which is the source of moral duties.

Traditionally, the status of a person is considered to be the highest moral status: people have a certain dignity, which is often identified. why is that ? Because man is a being endowed with mind We repeat from Boethius (V.e century). We find this assertion in the philosophers who have characterized Western moral thought, from Thomas Aquinas, the inspiration of the Catholic tradition to Immanuel Kant, the most quoted philosopher in modern and contemporary thought, via John Locke, one of the fathers of political liberalism.

Kant states that a person A completely different being, in rank and dignity, than things like [êtres] devoid of mind, from which one can dispose of as he pleases. » Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view (1984), p. 17

In this concept, it immediately appears that fetus Not a person, because one cannot say that he is endowed with reason. However, “to have a reason” is somewhat mysteriousand it is necessary to specify the logical capabilities that are being calculated.

Ethics issue

For a long time in the West, the critical criterion was the moment of animation, that is, the moment one imagined that the soul had entered the human body. These discussions are not new: for Basil of Caesarea, the soul entered the body at conception. Thomas Aquinas considered that this happened between the fortye and 80e day pregnancywhile according to Augustine, it was in the first breath.

Much later, Kant, considering the relevant ability is self conscioushe will consider a child to become a person at about the age of two, when he no longer speaks for himself at threee person, but say “I”. Closer to home, contemporary bioethicist Tristram Englehart believes that what matters is the possibility of this happening To blame or praise and be the object of praise or blame. In short, to have a moral conscience. These are the abilities that neither a fetus nor a fetus You do not have and cannot have.

Certainly, for philosophers, not being human does not mean being a thing, because Ethics It is not obligated to adopt a division of law. However, it follows that the fetus and fetus do not benefit from the protection and moral rights of persons. Therefore, when their interests are in conflict with the interests of the people, they cannot prevail. This is how moral justification can be made miscarriage and search for embryosEven if they end up destroying them.

However, as real interests, the interests of the fetus deserve consideration and some protection – contrary to what Kant said, there are good reasons to believe that embryos are not things Which you can get rid of as you wish “.

fetus, potential person

One of the good reasons for opposing Kant is the fact that embryos and embryos exist potential people. A potential person is a being who will become a person when he acquires the foundational abilities of a person. Thus, a potential person in his current situation is not a person, just as a potential president of France – a candidate for the presidential election – is not the president of France.

The National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) has supported this position on the basis of a legal argument: when a child becomes a person BirthBefore this event, there is a file A person who becomes a person but is not yet a personIn short, he is a potential person. On a philosophical level, the same reasoning is correct, except that there is no consensus on which criterion would be birth.

When does the fetus become an individual?

This indeterminacy means that in a practice that seeks to inspire philosophical positions, we often choose a limiting solution: important human interests must be at stake in order to allow the destruction of the fetus (abortion) or the exploitation of fetuses (research). In addition, an early time limit is set, in order to avoid harming a human being, as he develops, he will look more and more like a human.

Somiscarriage (abortion) limited to 14 weeks of Pregnancy (I’Medical termination of pregnancyor IMG, possible longer, but more serious reasons are needed) and the search for the fetus is limited in some countries to 14e day. This 14-day limit was introduced in France by the 2021 Bioethics Act (Article L. 2151-5: IV of the Public Health Act).

This last limit is interesting. In fact, it marks the end complete of the embryo (during the first divisions of the ovum, cells can transform into any type of cell, giving a whole organism; this ability quickly disappears) as well as the appearance of the primitive streak, which determines the level of bilateral symmetry of the embryo. Before these two events, if the fetus is cut in half, it divides to give Twins Quite alive. Then he died. Therefore, their observed occurrence makes the group of cells a real individual.

To be a real person you don’t have to be a person yet. However, one cannot be a person without being an individual, because a person is an individual endowed with reason.

The argument from rationality

It remains to be asked why some currents – in France and Europe, it is above all a Catholic question – consider the fetus to be a person from a moment ago. fertilization. Basil of Caesarea emphasized this, but it was referring to the entry of the soul into the body, an event that cannot be observed even for those who believe in its reality. What if we adopt the criterion of the emergence of rationality?

The argument presented thus far strongly contradicts this assertion. However, its proponents point out that a being can possess the mind without us noticing it, because it does not have the means to manifest it. According to them, this will be the state of human embryos. In fact, they already have everything it takes to be a person – they are genome Man is formed – and it is enough to wait for what is in the state potential, gets up. When I sleep, I continue to be a person.

This argument has a certain obvious solidity, even if there are good reasons to believe that it puts into the fetus’s genome many things that do not exist (yet). However, it is based on a concept that makes all possibilities an ability, in short, confusing the two concepts.

The oak is a potential oak tree, but it does not have the same abilities as the acorn that the oak tree does; It will only become an oak if it is planted and watered. More striking, albeit less relevant: sand It is a potential glass, but it does not have the same properties at all; In particular, sand is not brittle, and does not have the ability to break when struck. This ability is acquired only if it is heated. In the same way, the human embryo does not have the abilities that man does: it does not yet have a mind. He’s definitely a potential person, but he’s not a person.

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