Tag Archives: Personhood

Personhood – What is it?

Why do I talk about personhood? Personhood has come to be part of the discussion of organ donation, abortion, and euthanasia. Why?

A basic definition of personhood is the state of being a person. This is important because we place special value, along with moral and legal rights and responsibilities, upon persons. So, when we want to attribute rights and responsibilities to certain people, or we want to take rights and responsibilities away from certain people, we can, in our arguments, attempt to show it is right to do so by attributing, or by not attributing, personhood to them. read more

Personhood – And the Assisting of Dying

Recently reviewing an essay on Organ Donation which I wrote in 1998,[1] I came across some thoughts  on the definition personhood.  How a “person” is defined plays a vital role in how we approach things like vital organ donation and assisted death.  Our society is rapidly moving to a definition of personhood that connects a person’s intrinsic value to their ability to think.  Those with less ability to think are considered to have less value and are more easily deemed expendable. read more

Personhood – People Devalued by Prenatal Diagnostic Testing

Recently I attended a medical lecture on prenatal diagnostic testing.  I was left with the question, “In the provision of this testing, what are we saying about the value of those disabled from birth?

Prenatal diagnostic testing  is testing offered to pregnant moms to attempt to determine if their baby may have a condition like Down Syndrome or various other conditions resulting from chromosome  and other genetic abnormalities. Earlier and earlier ways to identify these conditions in a pregnancy are looked for, since the primary purpose for this testing is to offer abortion of babies considered “defective” while it is still “safe” to do so. read more

Personhood – Location of the Mind (and Understanding Dementia)

In the posting titled  Personhood – Which Comes First Death of the Body or Departure of the Soul/ I grappled with the question of the mind. Science can show that activities of the mind and physical activities in the brain are connected but science does not prove that the mind is simply a function of physical brain activity. Clearly, for others to know that thoughts are occurring in a person’s mind the person must have a functioning brain to express the thoughts through. Actually, more than just a functioning brain is usually required. Except when there is some kind of real time brain scanner, such as a functional MRI scan, assessing the brain, we can only know that the mind is active when the brain uses the physical attributes of the body to express the activity of the mind, such as the movement of the lungs, vocal cords and mouth, etc. This does not necessarily mean that a person’s brain must be functioning in order to think. There are examples of people who because of brain malfunction have temporarily lost the ability to move or speak, who were later able to reveal that during the time of lost function that their minds were active. The question before us is this. Is there some area of the brain that is the mind, or is the mind other than the brain and only, in a sense, making use of the brain? I accept that the center of the mind in our bodies is the brain but is the brain the mind? read more