Do Potential People Have Moral Rights?
Warren (Mary Anne)
Source: Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jun., 1977), pp. 275-289
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. By a potential person I shall mean an entity which is not now a person but which is capable of developing into a person, given certain biologically and/or technologically possible conditions.
  2. This is admittedly a narrower sense than some would attach to the term 'potential'. After all, people of the twenty-fifth century, if such there will be, are in some sense potential people now, even though the specific biological entities from which they will develop, i.e. the particular gametes or concepti, do not yet exist. For there do exist, in the reproductive capacities of people now living and in the earth's resources, conditions adequate to produce these future people eventually, provided of course that various possible catastrophes are avoided. Indeed, in some sense of 'potential' there have been countless billions of potential people from the beginning of time.
  3. But I am concerned not with such remote potentialities but with currently existing entities that are capable of developing into people. The question I want to ask is whether or not the fact that an entity is a potential person is, in itself, grounds for ascribing moral rights to that entity, in particular the right to be permitted or enabled to become a person.

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