Persons, Moral Worth, and Embryos

Volume 111 of the series Philosophy and Medicine pp 67-83


The Human Being, a Person of Substance: A Response to Dean Stretton

  • Francis J. BeckwithAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Baylor University Email author 

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Over the past decade or so several challenges to the prolife understanding of fetal personhood have been published. Two of the authors who have contributed much to this critique are Jeff McMahon and Dean Stretton. The purpose of this chapter is to respond to some of their arguments. My point of departure will be Stretton’s 2008 Journal of Medical Ethics review (Stretton, 2008, pp. 793–797) of my 2007 book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Beckwith, 2007). In his critique of my defense of fetal personhood Stretton relies heavily on McMahon’s work. I will first summarize the case I make for fetal personhood in Defending Life, and then respond to the challenges to my case offered in Stretton’s review.