Life before Birth The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1996-02-29
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Hardly a day passes without newspaper coverage of some new development regarding prenatal life. The abortion debate continues to rage, but other examples abound: forced Caesareans; prosecutions of women for drug use during pregnancy; fetal protection policies; the use of fetal tissue for transplantation; embryo research; and the disposition of frozen embryos. All of these issues raise the question of the moral status of the unborn: are embryos and fetuses part of the pregnant woman or are they persons? Are they sources of tissue, research tools, or are they pre-born children? Different conceptions of the unborn prevail in different contexts, giving rise to the charge of inconsistency. For example, women have been criminally charged with abusing their fetuses by using drugs during pregnancy, even though abortion--which pro-lifers call the ultimate child abuse--is legal. The legalization of abortion itself was based in part on the unborn's never having been recognized in law as a full legal person. Yet fetuses have been considered as persons for the purposes of insurance coverage, wrongful death suits, and vehicular homicide. This book provides a framework for thinking clearly and coherently about the unborn. The first chapter elaborates the book's basic idea, that all and only beings who have interests have moral standing, and only beings who possess conscious awareness have interests. This thesis, which is called "the interest view," raises issues of considerable philosophical complexity, but is presented in language non-philosophers will be able to understand. Subsequent chapters apply the interest view, and explore the moral and legal aspects of a wide range of issues, including abortion, the legal status of the fetus outside abortion, maternal-fetal conflict, fetal research, and the use and disposition of extracorporeal embryos resulting from the new reproductive technologies. The philosophical discussion is enlivened by examples and actual cases which immediately catch, and sustain, the reader's interest. Written in a lively style, Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses is a timely and important work that enables us to resolve contradictions in our current thinking about the unborn, and to approach new issues in a clear and rational manner.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3(6)
The Interest View
Consciousness as Necessary and Sufficient for the Possession of Interests
Is Consciousness Necessary for Having Interests?
Is Consciousness Sufficient for Having interests?
The Interests of Nonconscious Individuals
Dead People
Permanently Unconscious People
Anencephalic Infants
Future People
Potential People: Embryos and Fetuses
Criteria for Moral Status
The Conservative Position
The Person View
The Argument from Potential
The Logical Problem
A Future Like Ours
Contraception and the Moral Status of Gametes
The Moral Significance of Potential Personhood
Possible People
The Parfit Problem
The Argument from Bodily Self-Determination
Thomson's Defense of Abortion
Roe v. Wade
The Moral and Legal Significance of Viability
Practical Problems with a Sentience Criterion
Late Abortions
Beyond Abortion: The legal Status of the Fetus
Recovery for Prenatal Injury in Torts
Against Third Parties
The Irrelevance of Viability
Preconception Torts
Against the Mother
The Woman's Right of Privacy
Automobile Liability
Prenatal Wrongful Death
Wrongful-Death Actions
The Implications for Abortion
The Criminal Law
Prenatal Neglect
Wrongful Life
Maternal-Fetal Conflict
Moral Obligations to the Not-Yet-Born
Risks to the Fetus
Legal Obligations to the Not-Yet-Born
Extending child Abuse laws
Criminal Penalties for Fetal Abuse
Jailing the Pregnant Addict
Fetal-Protection Policies in the Workplace
Compulsory Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women
Fetal Research
Fetal Research in America: History and Politics
Fetal-Tissue Transplants
The Scientific Evidence
The Right-to-Life objections
A Feminist Objection
Abortion for the Purpose of Procuring Fetal Tissue
Research on the Living Fetus
Benefits from Petal Research
Moral Objections
Research on Living Fetuses Ex Utero
Embryo Research and the New Reproductive Technologies
In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer
The Biological Status of the Extracorporeal Embryo
Discarding Surplus Embryo
The Risks of Abnormality
Politics and IVF Research
Embryos in Laboratory Research
Detecting Genetic Disease in Embryos
Respect for Embryos as a Form of Human Life
Creating Embryos for Research
Dispositional Problems
The Rios Case
Davis v. Davis
Notes 221(30)
Index 251

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