What is being a person?

2020/02/10 Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana - Elhuyar Zientzia Iturria: Elhuyar aldizkaria

At the University of Trento (Italy) brain organoids are being formed to investigate childhood brain cancer. The cerebral organoids are small structures similar to the brains, raised in laboratory, from stem cells. By functioning as our brains, they serve to investigate normal and pathological functions and to test treatments. With this objective they have been created in the laboratory of Trento.
Faced with this type of research there is always an ethical concern: if they develop consciousness, what? Although we are far from there, the question is not new; man has wondered many times what it is to be human, what makes us human. The question is not simple and the answers have varied according to the time and environment. For example, the writer Primo Levi titled the book written about what lived in the concentration camp of Auschwitz: If this is a man (Se questo è un uomo).
At present, and due to the possibilities offered by scientific-technological advances, the question has adopted a great present not only from an ethical point of view, but also from a legal point of view. In fact, if it is not now, in the near future, it is possible that the brains not only develop in the laboratory, but that the dead are resurrected, are children genetically edited or are formed hybrid animal beings. Will they be people like us (mortal, normal and 100% human), with our same rights and obligations?
Researchers at Bartha Maria Knoppers University and Henry Greely McGill in Canada addressed the issue in the scientific journal Science and considered analyzing the legal definition of the term "person".
They say that international legal systems are based on the distinction between animal/man, person/thing, alive/dead, improvement/therapy. At present, however, the borders between these divisions are diluted.
So, what should the new definition be based on? The researchers have analyzed and discarded some of the alternatives proposed. The first would be based on the genetic code. However, according to the researchers, there is no single human genome, but billions, which are moving from generation to generation. The “human condition” is also a useless term: Who has transplanted a pork organ is not a person?
Can it be what defines the brain? The improvement of cognitive abilities, such as neuronal implants or brain death, are difficult to discuss in these times. Other parts of the body also create doubts. Eggs and sperm, for example, have the ability to create another human being, but also any cell if it becomes a stem cell.
Therefore, it is proposed legally the substitution of the term "person" for the term "basically person", which would include those who are on the border.
However, it seems difficult for the issue to be resolved with this proposal, since in some cases what "basically" means can be debatable. So it will continue…

Published in the newspaper Berria.

Gai honi buruzko eduki gehiago

Elhuyarrek garatutako teknologia