PHI 413 Case Study on Moral Status
Based on “Case Study: Fetal Abnormality” and the required topic Resources, write a 750-1,000-word reflection that answers the following questions
Moral status is a complex component for any individual to define based on their situations or personal opinion. Five theories exist on moral status. These include human properties theory, sentience theory, cognitive properties, relational, and moral behaviors theory (Bogue & Hogan, 2020). The case study on “Fetal Abnormality” focuses on four individuals; Jessica, Marco, Maria and Dr. Wilson who attempt to make decisions concerning a fetus with a 25% chance of being born with Down Syndrome. Scans show that the fetus has no arms with minimal chances of developing them. Therefore, the four individuals attempt to understand the moral status of the fetus and if Jessica should carry the pregnancy. The purpose of this reflection paper is to discuss the case, the moral status and theories that the individuals apply in making decisions in the case.
Christian View of the Nature of Human Person, Compatible Moral Status & Intrinsic Value and Dignity
According to Christians, the nature of human person is derived from God; implying that human beings are created in His image. God created the world and everything in it, including the human person. The Christian worldview asserts that human beings are part of God’s creation and life begins at conception. Therefore, even the unborn fetus has a full moral status because it is human being. The Christian view on moral status as intrinsic after conception is compatible with human properties theory which focuses on respecting the interests of any human life despite undesirable qualities that one possesses. As such, the fetus like an individual is relate to a human being and has a moral status which implores all to respect it, offer it inherent dignity and recognize its intrinsic value (Stahl & Kilner, 2019). The implication is that every person has intrinsic value that does not depend on their external manifestation or worth.
The concept of Imago Dei proves that all are born with inherent dignity because of having the likeness of God. Each individual should be loved and therefore, every human being is worth and should be respected in their own right (Bogue & Hogan, 2020). Human conduct and behavior revolves around relationships as demonstrated in the case study of the “Fetus with Abnormality” where all the four individuals attempt to make decisions based on their relationship with the unborn baby.
Theories Being Used by Jessica, Marco, Maria and Dr. Wilson
The three individuals in the case study deploy different theories in determining the moral status of the fetus. Jessica is a recent immigrant to the U.S. and is concerned about the socioeconomic situation and the increased economic burden that the child will constitute, especially dependency as it shall have down syndrome. However, she is a practicing Christian believer who knows that life is a sacred gift from God. In this case, Jessica struggles between two theories; the human properties approach and the theory of relationships. Consequently, the theory that represent Jessica’s moral status of the unborn child is relationship. The theory advances that human beings have a moral status when they possess a relationship with others who value them (Bogue & Hogan, 2020). The implication is that Jessica being the mother of the unborn child values it, then the fetus has a moral status. While the case does not state the action that Jessica took, keeping the fetus would imply that she values her relationship with the child as its mother, and her Christian belief as a believer in God.
Marco is Jessica’s husband and the father of the unborn child. He is concerned about the fetus and its potential negative economic and social impact on the family. However, he is categorical that he will support any decision and action that Jessica takes. The implication is that Marco is also using the relationship theory as he demonstrates that he values his wife and will also value the child. Marco demonstrates that the moral value of the unborn child can only be determined by the mother and he can only support because he values her.
On her part, Maria is staunch believer and trusts God’s plans. She tries to plead with Jessica to understand her Christian role and relationship with God. She makes Jessica understand her role and responsibility to the fetus; especially the need to protect it (O’Callaghan, 2019). Therefore, her values and actions are based on the theory of human properties as she believes that each life is valuable and every individual, either born or unborn, possesses full moral status. Maria believes in the ability of prayers and using human properties theory, she does not approve abortion. While she does not know what will happen to the fetus, she trusts in God and prays for the unborn child.
On his part, Dr. Wilson does not think that Jessica should carry her pregnancy to full term and recommends an abortion. The
physician bases his argument on medical and health grounds that it is a responsible alternative given the nature of life that the child will have. The physician is categorical that termination of the pregnancy is the scientifically and medically appropriate choice for the fetus. He does not show any value or right of the unborn child. Therefore, his decision is based on the cognitive properties theory and moral agency model (Bogue & Hogan, 2020). According to the physician, the fetus does not possess any cognitive properties like awareness and understanding. Further, it lacks decision-making capacity and determination of what is right or wrong. The implication is that the child does not have any moral status and should be terminated. The physician believes that as an agent, Jessica has a moral duty to make independent decisions on what will happen to the child. The theory influences the recommendation of the physician as he believes in its tenets.
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Theory that I agree with and Its Influence
The theory that I believe is the most appropriate and aligns with my Christian worldview is the human properties theory since it is almost similar to the worldview. The theory advanced that human being have intrinsic value and should be respected. The interests of each human being should be honored since all are worthy. The life of an individual, including a fetus, has value and should not be terminated. The Christian worldview is categorical that life begins at conception and any attempt to terminate a pregnancy or having an abortion goes against the human properties theory. The implication is that the recommended action should not be the ultimate aspect but the need to consider the overall long-term psychological effects on Jessica as the mother of the unborn baby (Swihart & Martin, 2020). All fetuses deserve full moral status since they are made in the image of God and possess same tissues that each human being has in their body.
The case of “Fetal Abnormality” demonstrates that each individual has a different outlook or perspective on the moral status of human person. The theories of cognitive property and sentience advance that a person can only attain moral status when they have awareness and can make decisions. However, human properties theory and relationship theory are different and implore one to consider diverse aspects of morality, especially the intrinsic value of human being. The implication is that human life begins at conception and the fetus has moral status because it possesses a life.
Bogue, D. and Hogan, M. (2020). Practicing Dignity: An Introduction to Christian Values and
Decision Making in Health Care. https://lc.gcumedia.com/phi413v/practicing-dignity-an-introduction-to-christian-values-and-decision-making-in-health-care/v1.1
O’Callaghan, P. (2019). Is the Christian believer conservative or liberal? Church,
Communication and Culture, 4(2), 137-151. DOI:10.1080/23753234.2019.1616580
Stahl, D., & Kilner, J. (2019). The Image of God, Bioethics, and Persons with Profound
Intellectual Disabilities. Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability, 6(1-2), 19-40. https://journal.joniandfriends.org/index.php/jcid/article/view/143
Swihart, D. L., & Martin, R. L. (2020). Cultural religious competence in clinical practice.
StatPearls (Internet). Treasure Island: StatPearls Publishing.
Moral status of individuals entails the deployment of ethical principles in the consideration of the importance of living things and their value concerning their life and living. In evaluation of theories of moral status, theorists advance that life is equal irrespective of living things under consideration (Brown, 2018). However, others have a contrary approach and place hierarchies or consideration levels for moral standing. Beckwith and Thornton (2020) identify five unique perspectives on the moral status and each aspect entails certain elements that act as a measure to ascertain the moral status of any creature. These include cognitive elements, human characteristics, sentience, moral agency, and relationships. The purpose of this paper is to explore the Christian belief concerning the nature of human person and examine theories applicable to the case study to ascertain the moral status of the fetus.
Christian View on the Nature of Human Persons and Moral Theory It Aligns
Christians define human person as man and women created by God in His image. Christians believe that human person entails the body, soul, and mind. They advance that the spiritual soul makes the body which is created by matter to become a living entity. Further, human persons have intrinsic value since their body is the soul and God’s temple. Christians also advance that human life is sacred and starts at conception. Further, individual’s identity is considered as the result of being a person and instead their acts of consciousness, intelligence and freedom (Brown, 2018). The Christian view on the nature of human persons implies that human beings, right from conception, have full moral status by virtue of their creation based on God’s image without any considerations on other aspects like cognition status. The implication is that human beings, irrespective of their age and social status have moral abilities because of their inherent nature and creation.
The Christian perspective resonates more with the human properties theory which is a religious philosophical model. The model asserts that only human beings possess moral status among other living organisms. Imperatively, all creations, including animals and plants, exist to serve man’s interests and aspects. The theory asserts that human beings acquire this full moral status upon their conception in the womb where they become alive (Müller, 2020b). The implication is that both a fetus and a grown up human person share same moral status and cognitive functions. The Christian view asserts that human beings are self-awareness and understand time, the past, and even the future. Based on these cognitive properties and abilities, individuals have the freedom and capacity to participate in meaningful deeds. The theory is connected to the inherent human value and dignity as it illustrates that human beings are superior to all creatures and their dignity is intrinsic upon conception. Human life is sacred and enjoys full moral status from the beginning.
Theories Used by Jessica, Marco, Maria and Dr. Wilson in the Case
The case study entails a fetus who will be born with a deformity because it will lack limbs, and has a probability of having Down Syndrome. The implication is that there is a high possibility of the child having mental health challenges with cognitive deficiencies. Based on this situation, the individuals in the case study employ diverse theories to make their decisions and perspectives. Jessica and her aunt, Maria subscribe to the theory of human properties as a religious philosophical approach. Accordingly, they believe that the fetus has full moral status from its conception irrespective of its physical and mental deficiencies that it may have or develop at birth (Colgrove, 2019). For instance, Jessica, based on her religious background knows that life is sacred and a gift from God. She is conscious of the mental and physical challenges that the infant will have but believes that all life is a sacred gift from God. Jessica also uses the moral agency theory as she needs to make a determination on the status of the fetus despite its challenges. Aunt Maria is religious and cannot entertain any idea of terminating the pregnancy and the fetus. She advises Jessica to think about her relationship with the fetus as the mother and God as the giver of life (Blackshaw & Rodger, 2021). Despite the medical evidence, she encourages Jessica to keep the pregnancy and play her role as a “mother.”
Marco uses relationship theory and believes that Jessica is a moral agent who should make a decision without any coercion. Marcos asserts that he shall support Jessica based on any decision that she makes concerning the pregnancy. Marco considers the effects of having the child with all these challenges, especially their economic and social wellbeing (Milliken, 2018). However, he asserts that he shall accept any decision that Jessica makes regarding the status of the fetus. On his part, Dr. Wilson is a medical practitioner whose suggestions and recommendations are based on the scientific approaches or evidence. Dr. Wilson holds the cognitive properties theory which suggests that something or an individual attains moral status when they demonstrate a certain level of awareness and rationality. However, a fetus does not illustrate rationality or awareness and can be terminated based on this model. The physician exhibits this theory when he enlightens the family about every possible solution to the case and the benefits accrued from each decision.
Effects of Theories on their Recommendations
These theories influence the suggestions and perspectives of each individual in this case (Colgrove, 2019). For instance, the moral agency theory sways Marco’s decision to support Jessica while the relationship theory influences Maria’s approach to the issue of terminating the pregnancy. She asserts that it is wrong and focuses on persuading Jessica to keep the pregnancy irrespective of the risks involved. The theory of cognitive properties influences Dr. Wilson’s decisions and recommendations about the termination of the pregnancy (Müller, 2020). The use of this theory by the doctor is based on the scientific knowledge that he possesses about fetal abnormalities and the implications that it will bring to the family.
Theory I Align With
The human properties theory is the most agreeable of the theories used by the individuals as it asserts that moral status begins at conception. I agree with this theory because of my Christian worldview and as a health care provider whose first duty is to protect and preserve life, especially when such life does not endanger the health of the mother (Surovell, 2018). While I believe that moral status should be offered to people or things that have cognitive abilities, I disagree that the fetus should be terminated on that basis alone. It should be offered a chance to live and enjoy whatever freedom the infant will bring to the world. God has a purpose for giving Jessica and Marco the child with deformities and possible Down syndrome.
Christians assert that human persons can comprehend, possess and make decisions independently, even when still fetuses in their mothers’ wombs. Their view aligns with the human properties theory and a bit of cognitive theory’s aspects. All people have cognition based on their level of development. In this case study, the four persons use different ethical theories to affirm the moral status of the fetus. These theories also influence their decisions and recommendations concerning the fetus with deformity.
Beckwith, F., & Thornton, A. K. (2020, July). Moral status and the architects of principlism.
The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, 45(4-5): 504-520). https://doi.org/10.1093/jmp/jhaa019
Blackshaw, B. P., & Rodger, D. (2021). Parental responsibilities and moral status. Journal of
Medical Ethics, 47(3), 187-188. DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2020-106173.
Brown, M. T. (2018). The moral status of the human embryo. The Journal of Medicine and
Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, 43(2):132-158). https://doi.org/10.1093/jmp/jhx035
Colgrove, N. (2019). Subjects of ectogenesis: are ‘gestatelings’ fetuses, newborns or neither?
Journal of Medical Ethics, 45(11), 723-726. DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2019-105495.
Milliken, A. (2018). Refining moral agency: Insights from moral psychology and moral
philosophy. Nursing Philosophy, 19(1), e12185. https://doi.org/10.1111/nup.12185
Müller, S. (2020). Concepts and dimensions of human dignity in the Christian tradition.
Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society, 6(1), 22-55. https://brill.com/view/journals/jrat/6/1/article-p22_3.xml
Müller, G. C. (2020b). The Christian understanding of the human person. Principles.
Surovell, J. (2018). But for the Grace of God: Abortion and Cognitive Disability, Luck and
Moral Status. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 20(2), 257–277. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44955509
Total 200 points