Professor Ralph Jenkins
Fetuses are Persons
A fetus is an unborn offspring of a human being. Right from their birth, infants are referred to as children. However, custom defines the time when they cease to be referred to as children. A fetus is barely bigger than a finger of a man with a human shape and is perceived to be a child. The question of whether a child that has not been born has a right to life is one that is shrouded in a lot of controversies surrounding the legal, moral, and religious status. According to the conservatives, a fetus has a right to life since it is a person from the time it is conceived. Liberals, on the other hand, a fetus has no right on the basis that it is not a person. To the moderates, the fetus has no right to life from its conception. However, at some point in its development, it does acquire such rights. Some, who find it difficult to label hold that the fetus has a right to life from the time it is conceived since it is a potential person (Wilkins 123). In the midst of the conservative-liberal disputes, human fetuses are persons with full rights to life by not only according to the subject of full moral status but also scientifically indisputable.
By reference to embryology of human being and considerations of development, fetuses are considered persons. Biologically, sexual reproduction results from the fusion of a male gamete with 23 chromosomes and a female a gamete, also having 23 chromosomes. After the fusion, genetic material from both the female and the male exchange and recombines. A diploid embryo or a “zygote” with 46 chromosomes that is instantly formed, is regarded a potentially young human being biologically, composed of the complete genome of a microscopically mature adult. The single-celled zygote formed, contains a unique and complete genetic makeup and is fully not possibly human despite that it does not have a completely developed structure. Before fertilization occurs, there is no fresh human; instead an existence of separate gametes of both the female and the male, living tissue is not regarded as a whole being with complete genome. Therefore, the biological “line” that divides between new being and the tiny living tissue is the process of fertilization. It has been in existence in Biology for a while after the microscope development, but was “settled” definitively with the DNA discovery, molecular biology, and genetic details. The “line” dividing new organism’s life and the “sub-organism’s” living tissue is a crucial one and depicting a scientifically relevant information that has to be properly grasped in to clearly appreciate this argument’s nature.
The embryo of the being created, also known as a cloned human embryo when it has been created artificially by somatic nuclear cell transfer (SNCT) then undergoes a number of divisions of cells and continues through many steps during its development. The “blastocyst” and the gastrulation stage procedure in which the trophoblastic cells that supply nutrients to the embryo are believed to discriminate from the cells that turn out to be the embryonic body itself where the three primary germ layers originates.. It is at this point that the “primitive streak” grows that is believed to be the early tissue from which the development of the CNS occurs. On the eighth day after fertilization, implantation is naturally presumed to take place in the female uterine wall (Hubert).
At the first stages, the cells of the embryo maintain the capacity to differentiate into different functional cells composed of the body of a full-grown human being. Specific “totipotent” cells retain the capacity to supply nutrients to the fetus at an early stage, therefore, forming part of the human placenta. The “pluripotent” cells are confined to the cell lines meant to be part of the whole human body. For this specific, it attracts the attention of many researchers and biologists, since through Bioengineering, they are in a position to be modified in many ways. After the blastogenic stage is over, the embryo undergoes a stage of development where organogenesis happens. The main organs body develop at this stage. It usually stretches from the 29th to 56th day during which the fetus grows from 6 to approximately 31 cm. Both organogenesis and blastogenesis comprise the embryonic stage in which main changes in growth occur (Hubert).
The last stage, phenogenesis that normally extends from about week 9 to 38, is where significant growth and maturation happens majorly quantitatively, especially in overall size, from an embryo of about 8 grams to a fetus of about 8300 grams. The crucial point to understand from the human development of the embryo point of view is that the important biological feature that predicts the presence of a uniquely new human being is the conception stage, i.e. fusion of the nucleus and mixture of the female and male genome. Upon the fusion of the nucleus, conception, the cells of the gametes are removed as zygote is formed as a new entity containing a complete and unique genome. That genetic material has all the instructions needed for the entire “unfolding” and development of the fetus, which proceeds to “term” given that it is not interrupted artificially or naturally. Therefore, an organism with complete a genome results from sexual reproduction after conception to form a zygote (Hubert).
Regarding the development of embryos that have been cloned, which originates from SCNT, an asexual form of reproduction is rewound to a phase where it is actuated develop according to its pre-destined genome having a full diploid complement of 46 chromosomes. Implantation into the woman’s uterus could in theory progress to term as has been progressing in mammals like Dolly the sheep. With regard to its “destiny”, the cloned embryo biologically corresponds to a single-celled zygote resulting from the normal sexual reproduction. Human embryo that has been cloned is taken to be analogous to the zygote in terms of functionality resulting from type-ordinary reproduction sexually, i.e., sexual reproduction has been correctly discovered by the Presidents Council. For the moral reflection reasons, therefore, I concur with their report that the ethical condition of the embryo generated by the sexually through fusion of the male and female gametes which corresponds to the human embryo that has been cloned using SCNT. Thus, all of the succeeding debates favoring full noble conditions of the human embryo will uniformly apply to both. There is certainly no queries on a biological grounds that the one-celled zygote to he full grown fetus is in fact biologically human with a complete genetic material (Hubert).
Also, there is no philosophically way that qualifies to treat the human fetus as anything other than a grown person. We go against Occam’s razor if we postulate two entities where only one is essential to account for the facts observed that are, “entities are not to be multiplied without necessity”. The premature embryo is able by virtue of its very nature and essence of having personhood joined to it. Every debate that tries to limit full personhood of the fetus leads to limiting it to other human species groups as well. Lastly, this is because they are connected either in a Cartesian or false physicalist two fundamental principles or in an “acquired” theory of human personhood which cannot be protected once given to capricious philosophical study. Despite the reason which is satisfactorily ethical which one possibly hope to “assign” the human embryo a “special”, “intermediate” or incomplete noble conditions, intellectual truthful and integrity stops it. The categorical imperatives of Kant are helpful, but smaller extent than complete with regard to the ethical dilemma determined by the condition of the human embryo and its association to the noble licitness of cloning for biomedical research. If the embryo is afforded full ethical condition, then to dismantle human embryos for any cause is ethically illicit, is to violate: Two Kant’s categorical imperatives; that we 1. Only execute those ethical activities which we are ready to make it universal, 2. “Don’t ever entreat persons as wherewithal to an end”, and the civil law, which also holds that an individual should not intentionally do evil as it has no positive reward (Romans 3: 8). Likewise the first fundamental assumption of medicine “do no harm” is noteworthy in that it forbids the execution of acts which in themselves are injurious to the person on whom they are executed quite free of any consideration of instructed consent. One believes that believers of the “intermediate” or “special status” position would accept that in the lack perfect cognitive certainty or certainty beyond a reasonable doubt; beneficence, justice, prudence, and duty require that any mistake on the side of caution in treating the human fetus as a person worthy of maximum moral respect (Hubert).
Finally, even if bioethics cited almost anything in the secular or the Principle based bioethics is appealed to, the “intermediate” or “special” moral status of the human fetus represents a moral choice rife that is unacceptable with rigid ideas of autonomy “couched” in utilitarian debates in the absence of suitable degrees of justice and beneficence. Even if it were given for the sake of debate that the human fetus is not a human person, it is difficult to imagine how one can claim that destroying the fetus for research purposes is compatible with its “special” or intermediate “moral” status. (Hubert).
In conclusion, it is evident that the human fetus is, in fact, a human being, and deserves full moral status and protection, beyond any doubt. In the absence of divine revelation and in-keeping with the first principle of medicine “Do no harm”, the first and second Kant’s categorical imperatives, and the old civil and moral law tradition that an individual should not intentionally do evil that it has no positive reward, we must thus refute the “intermediate” or “special” moral status of the human fetus as impractical and accord it the full moral value rightfully due to it. Nothing less is required in justice delivery.
Hubert, John P. “Defending Human Embryonic Life.”
Wilkins, Burleigh T. “Does the fetus have a right to life?.” Journal of social philosophy 24.1 (1993): 123-137.