Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
A conception of person frequently appears in the literature of medical ethics. This thesis will explore 'person' as it appears in this context. My position is that there are such individuals as persons. Scientific and psychological investigation of persons as a kind will provide knowledge about what they are and how they might be harmed. Once we understand that persons are whole beings - gestalts - distinct from, yet at the same time within, a social context, and are metaphysical entities rather than moral constructs, some roadblocks to achievement of the following may be removed: agreement about the nature of persons, subsequent maximization of promotion of their best interests, and just consideration of the moral status of others who are not persons, or whose personhood is indeterminable.
This knowledge is significant for medical ethics. Knowledge of the impending loss of their personhood is a source of suffering for some patients. Physicians must understand that many of their patients are persons, and get to know them as individual persons in order to promote their health and well-being. For this reason, good communication between physician and patient, including the process of obtaining valid consent, is essential.
The role 'person' plays in its familiar context of the issues of abortion and euthanasia will be seen to be inappropriate. Basing the permissibility of abortion on the non-personhood of the fetus is a mistake. It has led to the ill-fated attempts to specify essential characteristics and criteria of persons, and to the obsession with the right to life. This has deflected attention from the more meaningful sense of person, from which more positive and productive obligations may be drawn.
Harrison, Christine Elizabeth, "'Person' in Medical Ethics" (1990). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3522.