Case Study on Moral Status The Case for Fetal Abnormality

Based on “Case Study: Fetal Abnormality” and the required topic Resources, write a 750-1,000-word reflection that answers the following questions:  Case Study on Moral Status The Case for Fetal Abnormality

What is the Christian view of the nature of human persons, and which theory of moral status is it compatible with? How is this related to the intrinsic human value and dignity?
Which theory or theories are being used by Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr. Wilson to determine the moral status of the fetus? What from the case study specifically leads you to believe that they hold the theory you selected?
How does the theory determine or influence each of their recommendations for action?
What theory do you agree with? Why? How would that theory determine or influence the recommendation for action?
Remember to support your responses with the topic Resources.

Case Study on Moral Status: The Case for Fetal Abnormality

In medical and nursing practice there are always situations that present a moral dilemma or what are usually called ethical dilemmas. These situations would normally require that a decision maker base their decision on some moral theory or Christian worldview position (Banes-Berceli, 2017; Gray, 2022). In the case study on which this paper is based, a pregnant immigrant lady by the name Jessica whose boyfriend is named Marco discovers that the child she is carrying has got fetal abnormalities. Dr Wilson who is her primary care physician advises her that she should abort the fetus because of the abnormalities. Since she comes from a staunchly Christian family she and her aunt by the name of Maria categorically refuse this suggestion. But the boyfriend is of a different opinion and agrees with the physician that the pregnancy needs to be terminated on grounds of fetal abnormality. This paper is about the decisions that will be taken by each of the above persons and the moral theories that will inform these decisions.

Christian View of the Nature of Human Persons and the Compatible Theory of Moral Status

The nature of human persons as per the Christian worldview is that human life is sacred and that life begins at conception. The Christian Bible states that God created a person in his own image and that it is only God that can create and give life. For this reason, there is no human being who can take away another human being’s life. In other words, the Christian worldview is that fetuses that are unborn are as human as a person who has already been born. This view is supported by the fact that a fetus has a heart that actively beats just like that of a human being that has already been born. The Christian view holds that God creates every human being with a purpose for them to fulfil in the world. This includes the unborn fetus whether they are deformed or not. This is why according to the Christian worldview the fetus with abnormalities should be left to be born even if it will have disabilities from the fetal abnormalities. Case Study on Moral Status The Case for Fetal Abnormality


The Christian worldview is compatible with two theories of moral status. These theories are those of Human Properties and of Moral Agency (Banes-Berceli, 2017; Beckwith & Thornton, 2020; White, 2020). The moral status theory of Human Properties states that life commences at conception and the result of fertilization is a human with all the moral and ethical rights as a grown adult human. It also states that only humans have status. The theory of moral status based on Moral Agency on the other hand dictates that humans with the ability to discern right from wrong should act as moral agents. With regard to this case, the theory based on Human Properties means that as the Christian view prescribes, the life of the unborn fetus is sacred and should not be terminated. That based on Moral Agency on the other hand would mean that the physician and the boyfriend would be judged on the decision they took of terminating the pregnancy from a moral standpoint of right and wrong.

The above is related to the intrinsic human value and dignity in that the sanctity of life is not acquired but it is automatically achieved following conception. The human being is dignified and hence moral judgment dictates that no other human being should even think of terminating the life of another human because of this dignity that is intrinsic. This is regardless of the situation of the moment. However, the contrary argument would also be that intrinsic human value and dignity means that allowing the fetus with known abnormalities to grow to term and be delivered would result in a child that has serious disabilities and that will then suffer for the rest of their lives. From this particular viewpoint, this in itself would be more immoral than terminating the life of the fetus when they are still without sentience (the ability to feel pain and pleasure).

The Theories Used by Jessica, Marco, Maria, and Dr Wilson in Determining the Moral Status of the Fetus

According to their resistance to the suggestion by the physician Dr Wilson that the pregnancy be terminated due to the fetal abnormalities noted, Jessica and her aunt Maria are using the moral status theory of Human Properties. It states as has been mentioned above that all life begins at fertilization (Banes-Berceli, 2017). Jessica’s boyfriend Marco on his part is using the moral status theory of Cognitive Properties. This theory states that moral status is conferred when a person has cognitive abilities such as memory, perception, understanding, thinking, language and self-awareness (Banes-Berceli, 2017). Cleary, an unborn fetus does not have all these. For this reason, the moral status theory of Cognitive Properties seems to give Marco the backing for agreeing with Dr Wilson on the need for terminating the pregnancy on grounds of abnormalities. Case Study on Moral Status The Case for Fetal Abnormality

From the case study, Dr Wilson who is the physician that suggested the termination is also using the same moral status theory of Cognitive Properties. As the physician he has determined that there will be a 1:4 chance that the child will be born with Down’s syndrome. Terminating the pregnancy at this stage when the fetus still does not possess any cognitive abilities would thus be better than allowing the child to be born after which it will suffer for the rest of its life.

The Theory that I Concur With and Why

Personally I would go with the moral status theory of Cognitive Properties. It would make sense that despite the fact that the fetus is a human with nutritional and metabolic needs, it still does not have cognitive ability. Given that it will be born as a child with a disability, it would be morally better to spare it the lifelong suffering by terminating the pregnancy at this stage in which it still does not know of feel anything. This will also be in line with Childress and Beauchamp’s ethical principle of nonmaleficence (Banes-Berceli, 2017; Beckwith & Thornton, 2020). It would influence the recommendation by providing a rationale for terminating the pregnancy as recommended by the physician.


Moral status is conferred by several theories. The Christian worldview is congruent with some of these theories and especially that of Human Properties that states that life begins at conception. This case presents an ethical and moral dilemma between the moral status theory of Human Properties (Christian view) and that of Cognitive Properties. Jessica and Maria are on one side (Human Properties) while Dr Wilson and Marco are on the other side (Cognitive Properties) as far as the moral judgment of the case is concerned.


Banes-Berceli, A. (2017). Theories of moral status.

Beckwith, F., & Thornton, A.K. (2020). Moral status and the architects of Principlism. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, 45(4-5), 504–520.

Gray, K. (2022). Moral status: Definition, philosophy, and criteria.

White, N.H. (2020). God, humanity, and human dignity. Grand Canyon University.

Case Study on Moral Status The Case for Fetal Abnormality


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