Date of Award

Spring 6-7-2019

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Heidi Monroe

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Leland Saunders


after-birth abortion, neonatal resuscitation, potential personhood, autonomy, viability


The intense societal debate churning around the moral status of fetuses includes topics such as qualifications for personhood, the role of the autonomous decisions of a fetus’ mother, and the obligations of society to protect fetuses. This paper analyzes extending this discussion to newborns in five sections. The first section presents a literature review of responses to a philosophical paper about the respective interests of parents and fetuses and newborns, elaborating on aspects of personhood and parental decision-making. The second section presents a literature review of medical and nursing discussion around resuscitation for extremely premature newborns, focusing on similar evaluations of the newborn’s interests and the weight of parental decisions. The third section compares and contrasts the themes evident in the foregoing literature reviews, and the fourth section highlights these themes in an examination of two case studies of extremely premature newborns. The final section concludes the multifaceted conversation with a short commentary on the responsibilities inherent in developing and contributing opinions to this societal debate.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Honors Program.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License