However, since the “zygote is genetically identical to the embryo,” which is also genetically identical to the fetus, and, by extension, identical to the baby, inquiring the beginning of personhood can lead to an occurrence of the Sorites paradox, also acknowledged as “the paradox of the heap.” The paradox of the heap arises from vague predicates in philosophy.
If there is a heap of sand and a grain is taken away from that heap one by one, at what point will it no longer be considered a heap – what classifies it as a heap? When, in the development of a human being, is an embryo considered a person with moral standing?
Reproductive Ethics: Runner-Up By: Lillian Nwigwe (University of Illinois at Chicago)Introduction In November 1998, two teams of U. scientists confirmed successful isolation and growth of stems cells obtained from human fetuses and embryos.
Since then, research that utilizes human embryonic cells has been a widely debated, controversial ethical issue.
The utilitarian approach chooses potential benefits of stem cell research over the physical lives of embryos without regard to the rights an embryo possesses.
Advocates of embryonic stem cell research claim this will cure diseases but there is a gap in literature that confirms how many diseases these cells can actually cure or treat, what diseases, and how many people will actually benefit.Thus, the end goal of stem cell use justifies sacrificing human embryos to produce stem cells, even though expending life is tantamount to murder.Opponents of embryonic stem cell research would equate the actions done to destroy the embryos as killing.We should not justify this evil even if it achieves good.Under the deontological approach, “whether a situation is good or bad depends on whether the action that brought it about was right or wrong,” hence the ends do not justify the means.Killing, defined as depriving their victims of life, will therefore reduce their victims to means to their own ends.Therefore, this argument touches on the question: if through the actions of embryotic stem cell research is “morally indistinguishable from murder? The prohibition of murder extends to human fetuses and embryos considering they are potential human beings.Some ethicists attempt to determine what or who is a person by “setting boundaries” (Baldwin & Capstick, 2007).Utilizing a functionalist approach, supporters of embryonic stem cell research argue that to qualify as a person, the individual must possess several indicators of personhood, including capacity, self-awareness, a sense of time, curiosity, and neo-cortical function.Thus, this issue touches on existential questions such as: There is a debate on when exactly life begins in embryonic development and when the individual receives moral status.For example, some may ascribe life starting from the moment of fertilization, others may do so after implantation or the beginning of organ function.