The moral status of the near-term fetus.

Abstract

The difficult issue of balancing maternal and fetal interests in obstetric decision-making was discussed in an earlier article. Dr. Raanan Gillon challenged the view that newborn infants are and should be regarded as having the same moral status as persons; moreover, there is no morally relevant difference between infants and fetuses in the weight range in question, and as an alternative he suggested that fetuses have an attenuated moral status compared to persons, to the point that it is permissible to kill them when doing so benefits persons. In reply there are several considerations such as other moral intuitions about infants and fetuses near term. When a philosophical theory, such as: infants should not be regarded as having the same moral status as persons because they are not self-conscious conflicts with widespread intuitions, such as: most obstetricians would consider fetuses near term to have a moral status that is close to, if not equal to, that of newborns, then we should carefully consider whether the theory is strong enough to override those intuitions.

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