Do human cells have rights?
|Human Rights, Stem Cells, Utilitarianism, 🟡 Morality
Table of Contents
The issue of human cells having rights has come up in light of the medical progress that has led to the possibility of medical practitioners performing procedures that enable the fertilization of the embryos outside the human body. This has been received with mixed reaction by people and many have moral inhibitions towards this progress. This may be because of religious biasness or simply the notion that it is wrong to take over natures work.
This paper seeks to understand the moral theories that help to explain how an act is defined as right or wrong. By studying the four theories namely Social contract theory, utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics, one is able to understand the difference in the moral theories and the premises that they are founded on.
Explain What Moral Goodness Is According To Social Contract Theory
Social contract theory expresses that morality is a set of rules governing behavior that rational people would accept, on the condition that others would accept them as well. Political theorists have defined this as the primary base for the rise of political authority in many communities. Social contract theory is also how an act is classified as morally good or otherwise through consent from the people (Skyrms 59).
Interpret What Social Contract Theory Would Imply For The Issue At Hand
The rights of the human cells can only be established or denied by the society. This is by the voting in of laws that may allow the rights of the human cells. This is made through consent of the people and this consent is what makes it right for a researcher to use the human embryos for research. This leads to the argument that the human embryo should be given a chance to life as opposed to the right to life.
Explain What Moral Goodness Is According To Utilitarianism
John mills the modern father of utilitarianism has explained that the moral goodness of the theory lies not solely in the pursuit of happiness but in the prevention and mitigation of unhappiness. Ultimately the moral goodness of an action is determined by the long-term effect tit will have on the actor and the people it will affect. An example of a situation where the utilitarian theory maybe employed would be in the cases of a doctor who has a patient in perfect health and considers killing him, since there are six other patients who would benefit greatly from his body organs. By employing the utilitarian theory, it suffices to say that since Patient A may never find the cure for AIDS. It therefore brings the ultimate pleasure to give six patients a happy life from patient A’s organs because this is the most pleasure attainable from the death of patient A. The pain caused is the least, as only one family shall be affected by his death. However, such an application of the theory may make people lose confidence in the health care system and health practitioners since they will be afraid of going for treatments for ailments they may have. This act of killing patient A therefore has a ripple effect of causing the death o of more people as they stay at home ill, with fear of being killed at the hospitals.
Interpret What Utilitarianism Would Imply For The Issue At Hand
According to the utilitarian theory, the human cells have no rights especially if the findings gotten from the research serve to bring more pleasure through the further understanding of the genetic components of the human body. This pleasure may translate to better drugs for the human race or better prevention measures.
Explain What Moral Goodness Is According To Deontology
Moral goodness has been explained by deontologists as the choices made in conformity to a particular norm. According to the theory, which is mostly explained in contrast to consequentialism, the choice a person makes is judged by criteria unlike in consequentialism where the morality of a choice is judged on the state of affairs it brings about and if they are for the good of all other individuals.
The deontology theories may be classified into two agent centered deontology theory and patient centered deontology theory. The agent centered deontology theory dwells on the foundation that each individual is an agent to an action and thus is responsible for the consequences whether good or bad. The theory further explains that the ends and the means of an action determine the intention of a person and therefore all responsibility is upon them (Woodward 87).
The patient centered deontological theory is founded against the use of another person’s body without the person’s consent. An act that may be frowned upon would be for example, a surgeon killing a healthy patient and transplanting their organs to save the lives of five other patients although the act may seem noble the patient had not agreed to it and therefore the surgeon murdered one patient to save five others. This however may seem acceptable given different circumstances and even come off as noble however using the patient center deontological theory needs to assess the consequatialism calculus to determine whether the ultimate good is worth the bad intended.
Interpret What Deontology Would Imply For The Issue At Hand
On the issue of the whether human cells have right, arguing from the agent centered deontology theory; the cells may have extended rights from the person they are gotten. However if the cells have been gotten from a volunteer then they forego the rights they may have enjoyed and thus can be used by the researcher for any medical advancement of the human race.
Explain What Moral Goodness Is According To Virtue Ethics
Virtue ethics has been in existence for a long time, all the while going through revisions over time. The theory is said to be ion existence since the ancient Chinese philosophy. According to virtue, ethics acts performed on human beings should be acts of charitable nature. Unlike the other theories in the case where someone in need should be helped, the theorists of virtue ethics take that help as charitable help while other moral theorist differ from the premise of ‘do unto others what you would like done unto you’. Virtue ethic draws its basis on the premise that any act should be charitable or benevolent.
Virtue ethics further describes moral goodness as a multi-track disposition of what is morally correct. A virtue is a character trait that is ingrained in a person and is reflected in all aspects of a person’s life. It is there thoughtless to judge a person based in a single act or consequent similar acts especially when you do not know the reasons why the person acted the way they did (Sreenivasan 52). For example, an honest or dishonest person’s choices and decisions with relation to dishonest and honest actions replicate her views of honesty and dishonesty and these found her reason for taking action in a situation that calls for the virtue of honesty.
Interpret What Virtue Ethics Would Imply For the Issue At Hand
Following my understanding of virtue ethics where a decision is based as right or wrong by cultivated wisdom and an innate knowledge and conviction it therefore, follows that the human cells have yet to achieve this level of intelligence especially as embryos and thus may not feel as a wholly formed human being, may feel regarding pain. The embryos are not as mush developed as their human products, so they do not feel pain as the humans do (Warnock 7). Therefore, research done to understand more about humanity is ultimately for the good of the entire human race as researchers find out about our make up for the medical advancements on how to treat human beings.
In my opinion, the theory of virtue ethics has more conviction in giving a possibility of the human cells lacking rights because in so doing it allows for in vitro fertilization and therefore according a childless couple the ability to get babies.
In conclusion, the theories explain how the reactions of different people may be influenced and by understanding their philosophical point of their feelings. It is however important to note that although all the moral theories have truths, shortcoming, and that somehow coexist in determining whether an act is right or wrong.
- Moore, Michael. Patrolling the Borders of Consequentialist Justifications: The Scope of Agent-Relative Obligations, 2008. Law and Philosophy, 27(1): 35-96.
- Skyrms, Brian. The Stage Hunt and the Evolution of Social Structure, 2004. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Sreenivasan, Gopal. Errors about Errors: Virtue Theory and Trait Attribution, 2002 Mind, 111 (January): 47–68.
- Warnock, Mary. Do human cells have rights?,
- Woodward, Paul. The Doctrine of Double Effect, 2001. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.