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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

The following is part of a recent post to a blog called Todd Bradley's Galaxy. Thought it was interesting enough to mention here (and also to comment on, which I did over on his blog site). It contains a series of letters to the editor of his local newspaper (one of the letter-writers is his wife, Beth). Please follow the link and read the letters. Which one do you agree with?

two people in one body?

There was a letter to the editor in our local Broomfield newspaper a few weeks ago. My wife Beth wrote a response. The guy who wrote the original letter then wrote a response to her response and mailed it to our home, which is a little creepy. I guess he looked her up in the phone book. Today, the editorials section has a response to her response. I’ll post the letters here. I’d be curious to hear your opinion on this matter.


From the January 9, 2008 Broomfield Enterprise:

Definition of life must be logical

It is my New Year’s wish that we can finally put to rest the idiotic idea that human life begins at birth. That concept is not logical...If human life ends when brain waves stop, then life begins (at least) when they start. That’s a logical conclusion any child can understand.

With today’s technology, human brain waves have been detected in an 8-week-old fetus. And as technology improves, it’s bound to get even earlier.
From Todd's wife, Beth's, post:
When people say that human life begins at conception, they often fail to mention that defining human life that way changes the definition of personhood under the law. A “person under the law” has certain rights, including the right not to be killed. One’s enemy in war is not a person under the law; nor is someone sentenced to death a full person under the law: Both of them may be killed without that killing being defined as murder under the law.

In the history of U.S. law and English common law, on which it is based, an unborn child has never been defined as a person.
And this from the final letter:
Partin’s point appears to be that legally recognizing human life at conception attaches the legal definition of “person” to unborn human life, making abortion murder. She believes that this would be an undesirable result, restricting women’s access to abortion, and “cause more problems and lead to lawsuits.”

I somewhat agree with her analysis, but not that restriction is an undesirable result. Her belief, in general terms, “We should be careful not to legislate poor public policy.” We might remember that pre-born human beings have no vote. Majority rule can be, and in this case is, absolutism. That is not good public policy.

She fails to distinguish between “human being” and “person.” “Human being” is a biologically defined fact, but has no legal definition; “person” is a legal fiction, created by statute, codifying beliefs of apparent qualities innate to every human being. Is it a person? Biologically, it’s moot.
So what do you think? Check out Todd's blog and read the letters here.

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