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Self-serving bias and the structure of moral status
  1. Thomas Douglas
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Douglas, University of Oxford, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Littlegate House, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 1PT, UK; thomas.douglas{at}

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David DeGrazia tentatively defends what he calls the Interests Model of moral status (see page 135).1 On this model all sentient beings have the same moral status, though some are owed more than others in virtue of having more or stronger interests. The proponent of this model can accept, say, that one should normally save the life of a human in preference to that of a dog. But she denies that we should save the human because he has higher moral status. Instead, the human should be saved because he has more at stake—he may, for example, have a stronger interest in continued existence.

In defending the Interests Model, DeGrazia cuts against the grain of recent theorising on moral status, which has instead favoured what he calls the Respect Model.2–4 On that model, there is a categorical difference in moral status between persons and other sentient creatures.

DeGrazia suggests that reflection on the possible moral status of genetically enhanced humans should lead us to favour the Interests Model. One advantage of the Interests Model, he claims, is that it avoids the implication that genetically enhanced humans could have higher moral status than ordinary humans. DeGrazia doubts that the Respect Model can avoid that implication. I want to suggest that, though the Interests Model may indeed be better placed than the Respect Model …

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  • Linked article 100126, 100239, 100243.

  • Funding I thank the Wellcome Trust (grant number WT087211); Research Foundationd—Flanders; and Balliol College, Oxford, for their funding.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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