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J Med Ethics. 2013 May;39(5):341-4. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2012-100844.

Potentials and burdens: a reply to Giubilini and Minerva.

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  • 1Department of Philosophy, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97273, Waco, TX 76798-7273, USA.


This article responds to Giubilini and Minerva's article 'After birth abortion: why should the baby live?' published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. They argue for the permissibility of 'after-birth abortion', based on two conjoined considerations: (1) the fetus or newborn, though a 'potential person', is not an actual person, because it is not mature enough to appreciate its own interests, and (2) because we allow parents to terminate the life of a fetus when it is diagnosed with a deformity or fatal illness because of the burden it will place on the child, parent, family or society we should also allow parents to do the same to their newborn, since it is no more a person than the fetus. The author critiques this case by pointing out (a) the metaphysical ambiguity of potential personhood and (b) why the appeal to burdens is irrelevant or unnecessary.


Abortion; Embryos and Fetuses; Newborns and Minors; Philosophical Ethics; Rights

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