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The brain makes a person

Ivan Padovani (March 19) points out that a foetus is both living and human, and equates this with being "a living human being". He then asserts that no-one anywhere challenges this. When was Dr Padovani elected spokesman for all people on the planet?

Anything containing living human cells fits the characteristics given, as in a human heart, human liver, human blood. They are living, and they are human yet they are not living human beings, nor are they persons. Thanks to that little fact we have organ transplants today.

The reason that the result is not Frankenstein's monster is that these, despite being human and alive, are not the person. These organs, removed from one body, are kept alive until they can be transplanted into another body.

A foetus consists of living human cells, but as I showed above, that is not enough to make a person. The heart can be beating but a beating heart is just a pumping organ. A person's heart can be kept beating after the brain has died, and you can replace the heart, and many other organs, while the person remains the same. Distinct DNA is also not an issue - identical twins have similar DNA but still are distinct individuals. It certainly has nothing to do with the external appearance of a foetus.

It is indeed the brain that makes us humans (as opposed to collections of human cells) and persons. Personhood can only exist with a functioning brain, and ends when that brain permanently ceases its activity. You could transplant just about any organ in the body because what you'd be doing is rearranging the appendages to the brain - the seat of the human person.

Dr Padovani accuses Dr Azzopardi of "sophistry and deceit", but his own letter is hardly a model of honesty. Many people challenge the idea that life begins when at fertilisation. And although a human being is indeed a person, not any collection of human cells is.

Finally, abortion is a right in most countries - Malta is the only EU country where it is banned in all situations. Some might be surprised to learn that abortion is also accepted by many religions and denominations, including many branches of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other faiths. Perhaps if Dr Padovani were to look a bit further afield, he would realise that this is not a debate of good people versus evil monsters.

This is a debate between people, often sharing the same religious beliefs, morality and values, who disagree on the seemingly simple matter of when exactly life begins.

Think of it this way: to a person who believes life begins at some later stage, then an abortion carried out before that point is not immoral in any way. From the information we have so far, I have to say that the idea that a single fertilised egg is a person sounds quite absurd to me.

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