Chapter 3 of Principles of Biomedical Ethics

 

The problem of Moral Status

Beauchamp and Childress in this chapter start by explaining the problem associated with moral status, which starts with questions on which groups, objects, or people are or should be protected by moral norms. Throughout the history of human beings, several specific tribes, racial groupings, enemies in war and all nonhuman animals have always been treated as fewer humans who are incapable of morality. They are deemed to have a low level of moral status and fewer or weaker rights in society. Additionally, the authors allude that in some blemished societies, full or partial moral rights of individuals are determined by their moral status. They also give an example of how animals used in biomedical research are presumed to have no moral rights according to medicine and biomedical ethics. From my perspective, I believe that the problem of moral status arises from how things like animals, plants, objects, including many others are treated to be incapable of morality. I argue that no matter the moral status of something or someone, they should be accorded a full moral status in their own right.

Another problem that raises questions on moral status is surrogate decision making. Beauchamp and Childress argue that an individual’s moral status is usually lowered in respect to recognition of surrogates as rightful decision-makers who may entail that incomplete people have lost their rights of decision making. Therefore, any of them of their decisions do not have the same authority as they had before. Similarly, children involved in research are treated like their moral status have diminished only to advance the research goals which do not benefit them in any way. I think that outright denial of moral status to an individual is very implausible, and everyone has a right to speak out and be treated as human beings. In research, I believe vulnerable parties are owed more protections, whether they are young, incompetent, or old.

The problems of moral status also arise in cases of pregnant women who are considered to be brain dead, but their psychological capabilities are often maintained before delivery. Typically, maintaining the body of a pregnant woman who is brain dead against her wishes implies that she has lower moral status than dead bodies since her body has been subjected to extreme measures to benefit the fetus. The question of whether the fetus has stronger rights than a brain-dead pregnant woman may arise despite some moral status beliefs. In my opinion, it is accepted in many societies that the fetus has a stronger moral status than that of a braindead pregnant woman, to the point of an expectant woman’s body being maintained for the sake of the fetus moral rights. However, it remains unclear whether the brain-dead pregnant women also imply to have their rights.

Theories of Moral Status

Having a moral status incorporates some protections that have been afforded by moral norms, including obligations, rights, rules, and principles. Beauchamp and Childress in this chapter, use some simple examples to show how protections can only be afforded to entities that have morally been wronged by actions. Some examples include infecting a person’s dog and computer with a harmful virus. Deliberately harming a person’s object means that a people has wronged not only the owner but also the object. This means that direct objects also count for their rights while indirect do not. There is a clear notion that moral theory fails to clarify the fact that some urge that one property confers moral status. To this end, I understand that the question of whether moral ethics should be used in the entities of beings remains unanswered.

Beauchamp and Childress further argue that the identified properties in the five prominent theories of moral status cannot resolve the main problems associated with moral status on their own. However, the theories collectively provide an over-all, despite the untidy framework for tackling the problems. Furthermore, the five theories are first looked at and assessed why each one is attractive but problematic. The theories present plausible perspectives on moral status, but the theories are not sufficient by themselves. Therefore, the theories fail to adequately account for some of the actions done by human beings, and it remains doubtable that all controversies about moral status can be resolved. The authors, in the end, explain how some disagreements regarding moral status persists, and they also offer suggestions for reducing the conflicts. I believe that the theories fail to give the way forward concerning the problems associated with moral status since some actions are still under controversies.

The moral significance of moral status

Beauchamp and Childress suggest that some writers argue that moral theory should be analyzed in terms of the role of moral virtues and moral character to determine how individuals should be treated. If the moral theories are not well considered, they may hinder the process of decision making by making individuals ignorant of essential features that should be well-thought-out in the process. As such, the theories do not offer relevant information and an account of moral priorities on how we should treat or respond to different matters and thus, individuals would be better off without the theory of moral status. Nonetheless, all individuals have different preferences, and it is upon us to decide on which are right or not, and therefore I believe, no theory of moral status can apply in such situations. With that in mind, it is clear that the theory of moral status has its limits and should be well analyzed and not discarded.

On the other hand, moral coherence should be considered when it comes to undertaking risky biomedical research on vulnerable populations such as humans who lack certain capabilities. Protection for these populations should be high since they are no able to safeguard their interests. Ideally, for biomedical research to be justified, it has to come with potential benefit, and if not, it should be restricted. Individuals from vulnerable populations undergo many challenges, and if they are in our circles, it is vital for us to show them sympathy and moral responsiveness. I believe any form of compassion is morally ideal, and with that, we can be able to avoid incidences of child abuse, animal abuse, and neglect of the elderly in nursing homes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Beauchamp, T., & Childress, J. (2013). Principles of biomedical ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.

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