Case Study On Moral Status On Fetal Abnormality
One of the more significant questions in ethics and health care is the question of personhood. Who is classified as a person who is worthy of moral consideration? At first glance, the answer to this question seems obvious. Everyone is a person worthy of moral consideration. If you are a human being, then you really matter.
While this answer seems obvious enough, philosophers such as David Hume, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Immanuel Kant, and John Searle have all over nuanced perspectives on who is considered a person (White, 2020). Kant, for example, argued that a human person is one who is able to reason autonomously (Kant, 1785). By this, he meant that a person is someone who is able to make rational decisions. This distinction separates one’s desires from one’s ability to reason. Desires, according to Kant, are part of the body–they cannot be controlled. Reason, on the other hand, is part of the mind. Reasons is therefore controlled by our will and is free. When you are free to think and make decisions, then you are a person.
Kant’s conception of a person has a dramatic effect on how we view various issues in health care. One example is the issue of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. According to Kant’s criteria, euthanasia and assisted suicide would be wrong if you are not treating persons as intrinsically valuable. By this, he meant that you should not let one’s desires determine whether you should end a life, since desires are part of the human body and thus not under the control of the will. Moral decisions in health care should start with the intrinsic value of the person, because persons hold supreme value for Kant.
That said, Kant’s theory might also suggest that euthanasia and assisted suicide are morally acceptable if a patient has suffered irreversible brain damage, resulting in no brain activity. In such a scenario, the patient is not considered a person with a free will to make rational decisions, and therefore euthanasia and assisted suicide might be considered morally justified.
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So how does all this relate to the Christian conception of the imago Dei? For Christians, all human beings are made in the image of God, and therefore all human beings have equal worth (White, 2020). Recognizing this fact does not remove the need for careful moral reasoning when it comes to issues related to health care, nor does it solve complicated dilemmas related to end-of-life issues. It does, however, provide a clarifying principle–namely, we should not dismiss a human being as lacking moral worth simply because they do not fit our definition of a person. After all, Kant might be wrong about his definition of a person (just as the other philosophers might be wrong). Because of this, the Christian worldview arguably starts at the safest place when it comes to defining the human person. If all humans are created in the image of God, then we must treat every human as intrinsically valuable. This principle is relevant for how we think about issues related to disabilities, abortion, assisted reproductive technologies, any medical research conducted on human beings, and countless other issues.
White, Nathan H. “God, Humanity, and Human Dignity”. In Practicing Dignity: An Introduction to Christian Values and Decision Making in Health Care. 2020.
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. 1785.
Write a 750-1000 word analysis of “Case Study: Fetal Abnormality.” Be sure to address the following questions:
- Which theory or theories are being used by Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson to determine the moral status of the fetus? Explain.
- How does the theory determine or influence each of their recommendation for action?
- What theory do you agree with? How would that theory determine or influence the recommendation for action?
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