Suffield, Wendy Mary (2020) Re-evaluating the moral status of the embryo and pre-sentient fetus: a multi-criterial, multi-level approach. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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This thesis contends that the concept of moral status, which earmarks those entities towards which we have moral obligations, ought to be re-evaluated so that it is ascribed on the basis of multiple criteria, each of which may have increasing levels of strength. This will produce a more nuanced framework of evaluation that will guide how human embryos and pre-sentient fetuses ought to be treated, whether created through natural reproduction or in vitro fertilisation.
Most literature focusing on the embryo and fetus has concluded that there are no grounds for ascribing moral status before sentience. My original contribution is to argue that a combination of four criteria ascribe a minimal moral status that incurs limits on how these entities ought to be treated: life, genetic potential, relationship and function. I analyse the weaknesses of traditional concepts of moral status and argue for a multi-criterial analysis, inspired by Mary-Anne Warren’s work (1997). Her consideration of both intrinsic and relational criteria leads to a more development-appropriate analysis of the entity and its changing needs for protection. Intuitive views have suggested that moral status evolves gradually (Little 2008), but no previous work has considered how and why a minimal moral status should be applied to the embryo. My original model argues that there ought to be increasing obligations towards the embryo/fetus at different stages of development before sentience. Theoretical analysis is through a virtue ethics lens, considering not just the embryo’s qualities but also the circumstances and the motivation of the moral agent, assessing their actions against the virtues of compassion and justice. Three case studies on stem cell research, germline gene therapy and ectogenesis are then used to illustrate the practical advantages of this new model.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law
Contributors: Moreton, Kirsty (Thesis advisor)
McGuinness, Sheelagh (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2020 08:31
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2020 08:31

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