IUBio Biosequences .. Software .. Molbio soft .. Network News .. FTP

When does a fetus become a person?

Richard Hall rhall at uvi.edu
Wed Feb 19 12:31:17 EST 1997

On 19 Febr 1997, Robert Fink (rafink at ibm.net) wrote:
>This debate is interesting.  We have already used the EEG as a
>definition of "death" in the brain death statutes; if there is no EEG
>activity, then there is brain death.  If we stay consistent, we should
>consider that a fetal EEG can be measured at about 8 weeks, and thus,
>the fetus is "brain alive" at that point.

The criteria for life are more complex that those for death.  Thus, while
the absence of an EEG may be a definition of death, the presence of an EEG
is not a sufficient criterion for establishing human life.   Too many other
critical paramenters of function are not fulfilled at week eight.  We
cannot pick and choose organ functions that might be cobbled together to
make a stripped down model.  One or two parameters cannot define human

>Since the fetus is
>unmistakably human, the "conclusion" could be that abortion after 8
>weeks is homicide.
And would it not be more accurate to say that at eight weeks the fetus is
unmistakenly a human fetus?  To say the fetus is human implies that we go
from embryo to infant directly with out passing through the fetal stage.

To be sure there are biological, psychological, sociological, political,
and religious critera that should be considered but the ultimate critera is
likely economic.

For lots of people, the old critera, pretechnology and premedicine, that
life begins at birth makes sense. In many cultures, new born have been left
to die when times were tough.  I am sure there was pain and loss, but
greater value was placed on having productive adults than infants. In the
many parts of the world, times are very good and values have changed.  Many
folks have the resources to afford the technology and medical care needed
to nuture a fetus as much as 10-12 weeks preterm.  I suppose if you have
the resources and technology you could set almost any time for birth you
wish. The standard has never been immutable only practical.


Richard Hall
Comparative Animal Physiologist
Division of Sciences and Mathematics
University of the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas, USVI  00802

rhall at uvi.edu

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net