In dubio pro embryone. Neue Argumente zum moralischen Status menschlicher Embryonen

In Gregor Damschen & Dieter Schönecker (eds.), Der moralische Status menschlicher Embryonen. Pro und contra Spezies-, Kontinuums-, Identitäts- und Potentiali­tätsargument. Berlin & New York: de Gruyter. pp. 187-267 (2003)
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When in doubt, for the embryo. New arguments on the moral status of human embryos. - In the first part of our essay we distinguish the philosophical from the legal and political level of the embryo debate and describe our indirect justification strategy. It consists in renouncing a determination of the dignity-giving φ-properties and instead starting from premises that are undoubted by all discussion partners. In the second part we reconstruct and criticize the species, continuum, identity and potentiality arguments. The species argument only has a certain plausibility, if at all, as a critical argument. From the continuum argument and identity argument we take over the idea of numerical identity (NI) and link it with the core idea of the potentiality argument (P). So we come to the NIP argument: (NIP) (1) Every living human body that is the bearer of (or has) potential φ-properties has dignity. (2) Every viable human embryo is a living human body that is the bearer of (or has) potential φ properties. Therefore, (3) Every viable human embryo has dignity. Reversibly comatose people and newborns are protected because they have the potential to have actual personal characteristics in the future; our thesis is that embryos that are capable of development also have the same potential in moral terms. The basic idea of numerical identity, with which we support the second premise, is that every human being, from embryonic existence to adulthood, forms a physical unity. In a detailed part, we deal with the crown princess, gametes, parthenogenesis, somatic cell, pronuclear stage, biological heteronome early embryo, multiple, fusion, Siamese twin, hydatidiform mole and finally trophoblast problems. In a third part, the indirect argument is supplemented by a metatheoretical cautionary argument. It states that in situations where there is doubt as to whether a being falls within the scope of a moral norm, but there are sufficiently strong reasons for this subsumption, it must be assumed that this is the case if the contrary assumption and the positive effects it may have are in no acceptable proportion to the moral harm that would result if that subsumption were not made. The main result of our considerations is therefore: When in doubt, for the embryo.

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Gregor Damschen
University of Oldenburg


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