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Law and BioethicsCurrent Legal Issues Volume 11$
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Michael Freeman

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199545520

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199545520.001.0001

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Precautionary Reasoning in Determining Moral Worth

Precautionary Reasoning in Determining Moral Worth

(p.197) 11 Precautionary Reasoning in Determining Moral Worth
Law and Bioethics

Stephen W Smith

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents a possible personhood theory that shifts the burden of proof away from the entity under consideration. It argues that we ought to exercise caution when making determinations about personhood and holds that things are persons when we are unsure, as opposed to determining that they are not. This way is likely to provide an ethical system with fewer bad results and one that is ultimately more consistent with the viewpoint of the average member of the moral community. This provides the added benefit of increasing the potential pool of persons to include entities such as foetuses, newborns, and those in persistent vegetative states (PVS) states while not taking away any rights from existing persons.

Keywords:   bioethics, Gewirthian agency theory, personhood theory

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