All the people involved in the situation described in the case study rely on their own vision of the moral status of the fetus that determines their position on whether the abortion should take place. Thus, for example, Maria stands on the biblical defense which suggests that “the human embryo is based on the idea that human beings are made in the image of God and belong to God and therefore should not be killed (The moral status of the embryo, 2006, para. 10). In other words, her position is underpinned by the assumption that the moral status of the fetus or, more properly, any decision regarding whether this status exists is beyond the human decision-making prerogative. According to this philosophy, devaluating the life of a human (presuming that the fetus is a future human) is equal to undermining God’s justice. This approach to defining the moral status of the fetus explains Maria’s recommendation to leave a baby. Moreover, her mentioning of the “responsibility as a mother” likewise involves the implications for the religious philosophy applied to the analysis of Jessica’s situation, for this statement unspoken contains a hidden warning against being judged for the sin.
Another person involved in the discourse is Dr. Wilson. In this view, it should be clarified that Dr. Wilson does not take any responsibility to define the moral status of the fetus; instead, he is driven by such ethical principles as the priority of a patient’s beneficence and that of a patient’s autonomy. The former suggests that Dr. Wilson should “seek clinical benefits over clinical harms for the patient,” while the latter suggests that “the patient’s perspective on health-related and other interests is paramount” (Malhotra, Menahem, & Gillam, 2010). The adherence to these two principles explains the doctor’s behavior in the conversation with Marco. Thus, he insists that Jessica should be immediately informed about the current situation and should be provided with all the information about the available options so that she can make a conscious and deliberate decision. However, since Dr. Wilson claims that an abortion is “a wise choice in this situation,” it can be postulated that in terms of approaching the issue of the moral status of the fetus, the doctor sticks to the liberal theory which suggests that defining the moral status of the fetus should be tied to the circumstances; it follows, then, that an abortion can be justified if there are sufficient reasons for it (Harman, 1999). It is, nevertheless, unclear, whether the doctor admits or rejects the moral status of the fetus. On the one hand, his recommendation to have an abortion might be underpinned by his adherence to the ethical principle of beneficence; he can admit the moral status of the fetus and believe that the abortion is more beneficial for the unborn patient taking into account the future quality of the patient’s life. On the other hand, his recommendation might be underpinned by his adherence to the liberal theory; he can reject the moral status of the fetus and approve of the abortion taking into account the given circumstances.
Finally, the main decision-makers in this situation – Jessica and Marco – do not seem to be approaching the situation from the perspective of the fetus’s moral status. Throughout the case study, we do not learn about any implications that would reflect either Jessica’s or Marco’s adherence to any theory related to defining the moral status of the fetus. Marco appears to stick to the hedonist approach to decision-making which suggests that one should prioritize the option that will bring maximum individual value and benefit – this explains why he considers the pregnancy to be “a burden and a barrier to their economic security and plans”. Jessica, in turn, seems to be torn apart between the two philosophies: the religious theory advocated for by Maria that places the focus on the sacred nature of life and Marco’s hedonistic theory that prioritizes individual wealth and comfort. Although Marco is said to support any decision, it can be postulated that he is more likely to support the abortion option taking into account the theory he adheres to. Maria’s future actions depend on what theory she finds more satisfying: Maria’s religious theory or Marco’s hedonistic theory.
My position on the given situation relies on the theory which suggests that if an abortion requires a justification, this is so because a fetus possesses a moral status (Harman, 1999). Otherwise stated, the entire discourse around the abortion issue remains unresolved because all the participants of this discourse realize intuitionally that a fetus has the moral status; this is why new arguments are constantly developed to justify abortions. Despite the fact that I adhere to this theory, my principles would not influence the recommendations for actions if I were Dr. Wilson. Thus, I would, first and foremost, prioritize the principle of the patient’s autonomy which would suggest that I should provide Jessica with all the information regarding the current condition of the fetus, all the predictions regarding the future quality of life of the baby in case she decides to give birth to him or to her, and all the details regarding how the abortion would affect her organism. Besides, I would get Jessica acquainted with all the theories and views regarding the abortion performed in the situations involving fetus abnormality so that she can decide for herself which theory suits her best. In other words, I would do what Dr. Wilson did except for sharing my own view of the situation.
- Harmon, E. (1999). Creation Ethics: The Moral Status of Early Fetuses and the Ethics of Abortion. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 28(4), 310-324.
- Malhotra, A., Menahem, S., & Gillam, L. (2010). Ethical Issues in Fetal Management: A Cardiac Perspective. International Journal of Pediatrics, 2010(2010), 1-6.
- The moral status of the embryo. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.cmf.org.uk/resources/publications/content/?context=article&id=1811