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Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, Second Edition


Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, Second Edition Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Life Before Birth provides a coherent framework for addressing bioethical issues in which the moral status of embryos and fetuses is relevant. It is based on the "interest view" which ascribes moral standing to beings with interests, and connects the possession of interests with the capacity for conscious awareness or sentience. The theoretical framework is applied to ethical and legal topics, including abortion, prenatal torts, wrongful life, the crime of feticide, substance abuse by pregnant women, compulsory cesareans, assisted reproduction, and stem cell research. Along the way, difficult philosophical problems, such as identity and the non-identity problem are thoroughly explored. The book will be of interest not only to philosophers, but also physicians, lawyers, policy makers, and anyone perplexed by the many difficulties surrounding the unborn.

"Bonnie Steinbock's excellent book is . . . consistent, thoroughgoing, and intelligible." --Nature

"Steinbock's book is valuable for all interested in the ethical/legal issues surrounding abortion, prenatal injury and liability, maternal-fetal conflict, and fetal/embryo research. The author provides an excellent historical overview of these issues, but she also addresses the issues from the stance of a particular theory of moral status, namely, interest theory. This gives coherence to her discussion as well as allowing testing of the viability of interest theory."


"A focused, lucid, analytically fine-grained discussion of a wide variety of problems. . . extremely useful as a survey of the current state of the debate." --Religious Studies Review

"Merits serious consideration by physicians. Steinbock's interests-based approach treats all questions as open — another and most welcome breath of fresh air." -New England Journal of Medicine

"An extremely valuable contribution to the literature. The author carefully identifies the many bioethical issues to which the status of embryos and fetuses is relevant....She thoroughly reviews the extensive medical, bioethical, and legal literature on all of these issues, offering well-developed critiques of many standard positions. She articulates and thoughtfully defends interesting positions on all of theses topics. Anyone with an interest in these issues will learn a great deal from her knowledgeable and judicious treatment of them." — The Journal of Clinical Ethics

About the Author

Bonnie Steinbock received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974. She began teaching philosophy at the College of Wooster, and moved to the University at Albany in 1977. Her area of specialization is bioethics, particularly reproduction and genetics.

Table of Contents



1. The Interest View

I. Consciousness and Interests

Is Consciousness Necessary for Having Interests? /

Is Consciousness Sufficient for Having Interests?

II. The Interests of Nonconscious Individuals

Dead People / Permanently Unconscious People / Infants With Anencephaly

III. Future People

The Parfit Problem and the Farther Future

IV. Potential People: Embryos and Fetuses

2. Abortion

I. The Moral Standing of the Fetus

The Conservative Position/ Fetal Sentience/ Implantation/ The Person View/ The Right to Life

II. The Argument from Potential

The Logical Problem/ Contraception and the Moral Standing of Gametes

III. The Future-Like-Ours Account

IV. Identity

The Embodied Mind Account/ The Biological View/ The Interest View and the TRIA/Sentient Fetuses

V. Possible People

The Nonidentity Problem

VI. The Argument from Bodily Self-Determination

Thomson's Defense of Abortion / Roe v. Wade

VII. The Moral and Legal Significance of Viability

Late Abortions/ Partial-Birth Abortion

3. Beyond Abortion: The Fetus in Tort and Criminal Law

I. Recovery for Prenatal Injury in Torts

Against Third Parties / The Irrelevance of Viability / Preconception Torts Against the Mother / The Woman's Right of Privacy / Automobile Liability

II. Prenatal Wrongful Death

Wrongful-Death Actions / Implications for Abortion

III. The Criminal Law

Prenatal Neglect/ Homicide

IV. Wrongful Life Suits

4. Maternal-Fetal Conflict

I. Moral Obligations to the Not-Yet-Born

Risks to the Fetus/ Legal Drugs/ Illegal Drugs

II. Legal and Policy Implications

Extending Child-Abuse Laws / Criminal Penalties for Petal Abuse / Jailing the Pregnant Addict / Compulsory Cesareans

5. Assisted Reproductive Technology

I. The Science of ART

In Vitro Fertilization/ Health Risks to Women/ Health Risks to Offspring

II. Procreative Liberty and Its Critics

John Robertson/ Adoption and the Right to Have Biologically Related Children/ Core Values and Penumbral Interests/ The Interests of Children and the Nonidentity Problem

III. Limits to Procreative Liberty

Postmenopausal Mothers/ Multiple Births/ Octomom

IV. Dispositional Problems

Davis v. Davis/ Klein v. Klein

IV. Gamete Donation

Sperm Donation/ Egg Donation

6. Stem Cell Research

I. The Science

Adult Stem Cells/Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells/Cloning: Reproductive v. Therapeutic

II. The Moral Standing of the Human Embryo

The Twinning Problem/ Respect for Embryos/ Kantian Respect/ Moral Standing v. Moral Value/ The Basis for Ascribing Moral Value to Human Embryos

III. The Discarded-Created Distinction

IV. Payment for Oocytes

V. Chimeras, Hybrids and Cybrids

VI. Law and Policy in the United States

Cloning Policy

VII. Law and Policy in Other Countries

United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning


Product Details

Steinbock, Bonnie
Oxford University Press, USA
Medicine | Ethics
Health and Medicine-Professional Medical Reference
Publication Date:
6.1 x 9.2 x 1 in 0.9 lb

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Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses, Second Edition New Trade Paper
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