The treatment of patients, especially in the context of life and death, requires a determination of their moral status. The concept implies “moral ranking based on characteristics or attributes that tell us whether a being has certain rights or basic welfare interests” (Beckwith & Thornton, 2020, p. 504). Thus, such a controversial issue as abortion is also considered from the perspective of the ethical side of the decision.
The Christian view of the nature of humans and moral status appears to be humanistic and also includes people with disabilities. According to the creation story described in the Bible, “man was created in the image and the likeness of God” (White, 2017, p. 124). Thus, it is implied that any creature which has the same physiological traits as God is human and has moral status. A contradiction arises that since God created all people in his own image and likeness, then how to explain the existence of various physical deviations?
However, the Bible contains many examples of disabilities, diseases as well as healing, which leads to the conclusion that they are “part of the mission agenda of God” (White, 2017, p. 126). While it is mentioned that different health issues stem from sin, they are also seen as a manifestation of Christian caring and sensitivity to the problems of other people (White, 2017). Thus, religion does not discriminate against people with disabilities and treats them as equal representatives of Homo sapiens.
There are five criteria or theories based on which the moral status of a creature can be determined. The first one considers human properties and implies the identification of a person as homo sapiens. Thus, a person has moral status when having a separate organism with a human genetic code and is the offspring of human parents (Beckwith & Thornton, 2020). The main advantage of this approach is that it does not exclude the organism’s immaturity or any disabilities.
The criterion leaves unresolved the issue of the definition of a person and the exercising of human capacities defining all creatures belonging to the Homo sapiens species and having moral status. However, this theory reflects the Christian view of human nature and who is a human. The other four criteria, which include consideration of cognitive capacities, ability to act as a moral agent, sentience and emotionality, and relationships, involve more complex concepts and controversial concepts.
Both the religious view and the theory of human properties correlate with the intrinsic human value and dignity perspective. The essentialist view implies that a person’s life is inherently valuable. Thus, any human has worth, regardless of the circumstances, so his existence should not be questioned (Hinchliffe, 2020). Every creature with moral status has dignity expressed in the possibility of life. To deprive a person of it means to take from a fundamental right granted by nature.
Jessica is driven by the Christian views and the theory of human properties as she believes that every life is sacred. The theory of relationships can also be applied specifically to her since a woman is a mother and feels her responsibility and connection with the child. Moreover, the final decision is made by Jessica, so she has the direct power of determining the moral status of the fetus.
Marco hesitates regarding the economic possibilities of the family to maintain the child’s disability. However, he will support his wife’s decision; therefore, he is also guided by the theory of relationships, which gives the fetus a moral status based on his social influence. However, he considers the possibility of abortion. It means that the theories of moral agency, sentience, and cognitive properties are also applicable to Marco since he does not assume the life of a fetus as the natural right.
Aunt Maria is guided exclusively by the Christian view and the theory of human properties, suggesting that Jessica should leave the child and fulfill the will of God. She also turns to relationship theory, encouraging women to reflect on her role as a mother. Thus, she does not question the child’s natural right to life and believes that he is valuable regardless of the circumstances.
Dr. Wilson, as a doctor, is guided by medical ethics; it is his duty to inform his patient about all aspects and difficulties encountered. The determination of the child’s moral status, as noted, depends to Jessica, as well as the decision to have an abortion. The doctor in this situation cannot influence her position, only provide all the details so that the family can assess all the factors.
Different theories considered an influence on recommendations for possible action in various ways. First of all, the theory of human properties leaves no choice, emphasizing the natural value of the fetus, regardless of the circumstances. Theories of the moral agency, sentience, and cognitive properties propose to consider the possibility of abortion as an action in relation to an immature human being, which is not yet such in the full sense. Relationship theory implies that the fetus is socially important as part of the family, meaningful in the eyes of others.
I agree with the theories of moral agency, sentience, and cognitive properties since adults have psychological needs. In this case, the birth of a child will bring them difficulties, both economic and social. Thus, since the fetus does not possess cognitive, emotional, or volitional qualities, the decision remains with the parents. The theory will influence the recommendation to consider the needs of the adults and assess the ability to cope with the child with a disability.
Beckwith, F., & Thornton, A. K. (2020). Moral status and the architects of principlism. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 45, 504-520. Web.
Hinchliffe, G. (2020). On the idea of intrinsic human worth. Ethics and Education, 15(3), 300-314. Web.
White, P. (2017). The biblical view of humanity and the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities: The call and mission of the church. Acta Theologica, 37(1), 120-134. Web.