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When does a fetus become a person?

G K GRAY gord at homostudy.win-uk.net
Fri Feb 21 04:22:14 EST 1997

In article <5ecqki$8c8$1 at gaia.ns.utk.edu>, WB Thomas (Thomas.William at HOSPITAL.VET.UTK.EDU) writes:
>Daniel Pouzzner <douzzer.mit.edu> wrote:
>>Neurobiologically, a fetus becomes a person at about 9 months
>>post-natal, or 18 months after conception.  This is because the need
>>for the woman to be capable of efficient locomotion precludes
>>enlargement of the cervix to a large enough diameter to permit
>>complete maturation of the child's brain in the uterus; among
>>placental mammals this species-wide premature birth situation is
>>unique, I believe.
>I'm probably mis-understanding this statement, but are you saying
>that human beings are unique in that their brains continue to
>mature after birth?
>Many carnivores are born with brains that are at least as "immature",
>compared to people. Consider the blind, deaf, non-ambulatory newborn
>puppy whose brain will udergo extensive development in the first 6
>weeks of life. Of course, other mammals, such as many herbivores, are
>neurologically quite precocious at birth--a definite advantage if
>you may be someones next lunch
>WB Thomas
Although this departs somewhat from the original question it is
nonetheless important, since our species is unique inasmuch as the
foetal rate of brain growth is maintained until 12 months after
parturition. In "The Wisdom of Bones" Alan Walker and Pat Shipman
devote a full chapter to fossil evidence for this in Homo erectus
about 1.5 - 2 million years ago. I would equate "person" and
"personality", whose existence depends on conscious learning from
the 9th month of pregnancy to age ca. 3yrs. when consciousness of
*self* begins. Getting back to the original question formation of
the "person" is a protracted process taking up this period of

Cheers! Gord. 

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