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Life Before BirthThe Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses$
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Bonnie Steinbock

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195341621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341621.001.0001

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The Interest View

The Interest View

(p.1) 1 The Interest View
Life Before Birth

Bonnie Steinbock

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides the theoretical framework for determining whether a being has moral standing and is therefore entitled to be considered when we are making moral judgments and decisions. Clearly, normal adult human beings have moral standing, and just as clearly mere things do not. What are we to say about “marginal cases”: embryos, fetuses, nonhuman animals, dead people, plants, and the environment? The interest view maintains that all and only those beings who can have interests have moral standing. It then links interests with the capacity for conscious awareness or sentience. On the interest view, people, animals, and late-gestation fetuses have interests, and they are entitled to moral consideration. By contrast, embryos, early fetuses, plants, and the environment do not have interests and so cannot have their interests considered (although there may be other moral reasons for valuing or preserving them).

Keywords:   interests, moral standing, marginal cases, conscious awareness, sentience

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