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.

Some animal rights people, who think that animals and people are of equal value, may attribute personhood to animals, suggesting that animal have equal rights to people. (It is interesting that we do not tend to hear talk of animal having responsibilities)

Those who condone the removing of life from people, like in vital organ donation, abortion and euthanasia, may try to argue that certain people do not have personhood. They may argue that personhood has departed from individuals who still have living bodies and claim that we are justified in taking organs that result in the death of their bodies. They may argue that the unborn humans, that we abort, have not yet obtained personhood. They may argue that those individual, who some think should be euthanized without their consent, have not lost their personhood.

To have personhood, is to have the intrinsic value of a human being with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with being human.

The Biblical basis of personhood and how personhood relates to God’s image is outlined in my blog posting called Personhood-Image of God..

(1st published Jan 2013.  Republished July 2016)


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