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Sunday, 26 October 2008

Killing off "non persons"

Dr Tom Pink, reader in Philosophy at Kings College, London, has written on the ethics of humanity for the Cornerstone Group blog (see: A gross assault on human nature)

He draws attention to the basic universal ethics of humanity that dictates that we should not deliberately aim at the death of an innocent fellow human. As he says, "there is nothing specifically religious in this view." Referring particularly to the work of Peter Singer, he warns that the ethics of humanity are now under threat because of the limitation of "personhood" to those who have self-consciousness and the capacity for "reason" and "autonomy".

Because these qualities are not clear-cut, the right to be treated with respect (and not to be deliberately killed) becomes a matter for negotiation and debate. Furthermore, as Dr Pink warns:
... once the ethics of humanity is abandoned, the alleged human right to autonomy may not long offer very much protection. For suppose a human is judged not actually competent to choose. Then their humanity may no longer protect them, since - in Singer’s terms - they may no longer be properly ‘persons’.
The article was written before the passing of the HFE Bill last week and is a timely reminder of "the terrible directions in which this thought is moving."

I am sure that many legislators who have allowed this ghastly law onto the statute book have not thought through the ethical principles that have led us to the point where the importance of the human-animal species divide has been ignored in favour of the creation of hybrid embryos. It is not the first time that lazy and utilitarian thinking has led to laws that pave the way for horrors that the legislators could have foreseen if they had a minimal understanding of how important are the fundamental principles of respect for humanity and the right to life.
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