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Fetal Humanity and Brain Function Essay

Baruch Brody begins his argument by making assumptions that a fetus, being a human being must acquire all the essential properties of a human being, such that the loss of any would lead to out of existence or death. Thus, the essential property of a human being is the property whereby the loss would result in the death of the human being. From the Brain-Death theory, death is defined as an irreparable cessation of brain function. Therefore, it follows that a fetus becomes a human being when it possesses the essential property of a human being that is, having a brain that has not suffered irreparable cessation of function.

To reinforce this conviction, he added that by the sixth week of conception, when the fetus possesses a functioning brain, all the other properties that are required for being human are also present. However, when the fetus acquires all the necessary properties by the sixth week, the fetal brain is still not developed to support spontaneous motion until the third month. Some may argue that the fetus does not comes into humanity until the point of spontaneous movement, so it would be precise to say that fetus becomes a human being at some time between the sixth and twelfth week after its conception.

According to Ramsey’s theory of death, human being goes out of existence or dies only when all the essential properties of being human- that is, the possession of the brain, heart and lung- suffer irreparable cessation of function. And the fetus becomes a human when it acquires any one of the properties. The fetal heart is developed at the second week, prior to the brain and lung. Thus, based on the theory of essentialism, the fetus becomes a human being at week two.

However, as there are progressive developments in the functioning of the fetal heart, it would be more accurate to conclude that the fetus becomes a human being some time between the second and twelfth week of conception. Between the second and twelfth week after conception, the fetus becomes a human being and right to life should prevail. Since it is morally impermissible to intentionally kill a human being, abortion is immoral unless in unusual circumstances. Therefore, it is concluded that moral opposition to abortions is based on human-rights. Evaluation of the argument

Baruch Brody attempted to prove that abortion is morally impermissible by showing that a fetus is actually a human being and holds the right to life. Using the brain-death theory and Ramsey’s theory of death, he argues that the fetus becomes a human being not at the moment of conception or at the moment of birth, whereas it is some time between the second week and twelfth week of conception. This is period when the fetus develops its heart, brain and lungs. Once one of these organs starts functioning, it becomes a human being and the right to life should prevail.

First, consider the assumption Brody made. It is reasonable to believe that the loss of the essential property of a human being would entail the human being’s death. Then, based on the Brain-Death theory, he associated the property necessary for being a human with having a functioning brain. However, this creates a fallacy. The Brain-Death theory states that “as long as there has not been an irreparable cessation of brain function, the person continues to exist”, does not equate to the person die if there has been an irreparable cessation of his brain.

Hence, the conclusion is not true although the given premises are true. Next, Brody invalidated the claims that other properties such as movement, being perceivable to others and viability are essential properties of human beings. The analogies he presented convinced us that these claims are not necessary properties of being a human. He further explained that when the brain operates, all other properties essential for being human are already acquired. Therefore, it can be deduced that the main required property of being a human is having a functioning brain.

Finally, as there are progressive stages in the physical development and function of the brain, the fetal brain can only support spontaneous motion in the third month after conception. Brody concluded that the fetus becomes a human being at some time between the end of the sixth week twelfth week after its development. There seemed to have an inconsistency with this conclusion and the proposed claim that the possession of a functioning brain is the only property essential to humanity.

Baruch Brody also adopted the Ramsey’s theory of death stating that human being goes out of existence when all the essential properties of being human- that is, the possession of the brain, heart and lung- suffer irreparable cessation of function. This premise is very convincing to prove that the loss of all the essential properties of a human being would entail the human being’s death. The claim that the fetus becomes a human when it acquires any one of the properties is ambiguous and does not seem to be valid.

Since the heart is a vital organ for living, it is true that the fetus becomes a human being when it develops a heart. And in all cases, the fetal heart would develop first followed by the brain and lungs. However, it is not right to assume that the fetus becomes a human being when it possesses any one of the properties. Suppose the lungs develop first, the body of the fetus is not able to operate without the functioning of the heart. Hence, it is only right to conclude that the fetus becomes a human being when the essential property of a functioning heart is acquired.

The fetal heart starts operating at week two and since there is no precise period of time the fetus becomes a human being, following the theory of essentialism, it is concluded that the fetus becomes a human being with the right to life some time between the second and twelfth week after conception. In order not to provide false premises as there is no specific time, this inference is acceptable. With that, Brody summed up his argument stating that after that point, the fetus is a human being with the right to life.

Thus, abortion is morally impermissible except in rather unusual circumstances. Brody proved that a fetus becomes a human being and should be entitled to the right to life. It follows that abortion is immoral seeing intentionally terminating a human’s life is immoral. Even though Brody did not consider theological terms in this argument, there are some missing premises. He did not explicitly define the term “unusual circumstances”. And since Brody proved that the fetus has the right to life and killing a life is immoral, abortion should be morally impermissible in any case.


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