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The brain-life theory: towards a consistent biological definition of humanness.
  1. J M Goldenring

    Abstract

    This paper suggests that medically the term a 'human being' should be defined by the presence of an active human brain. The brain is the only unique and irreplaceable organ in the human body, as the orchestrator of all organ systems and the seat of personality. Thus, the presence or absence of brain life truly defines the presence or absence of human life in the medical sense. When viewed in this way, human life may be seen as a continuous spectrum between the onset of brain life in utero (eight weeks gestation), until the occurrence of brain death. At any point human tissue or organ systems may be present, but without the presence of a functional human brain, these do not constitute a 'human being', at least in a medical sense. The implications of this theory for various ethical concerns such as in vitro fertilisation and abortion are discussed. This theory is the most consistent possible for the definition of a human being with no contradictions inherent. However, having a good theory of definition of a 'human being' does not necessarily solve the ethical problems discussed herein.

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