Moral Value, Personhood, and Moral Agency
Margaret, 85 years old, has been living at home with occasional help from a home care service. She has diabetes with complications and her mental faculties have been declining for several years. A diagnosis of mild to moderate dementia was made two years ago. Recently, Margaret was hospitalized for a severe burn on her hand. In questioning Margaret, the triage nurse became concerned because Margaret’s ability to explain what happened was unclear. It appears that Margaret had forgotten to eat and her blood glucose level was very low. She was trying to prepare a meal but did not remember turning on the stove. She burned her hand on the hot stove. Not long after, her daughter found Margaret unresponsive in her armchair and called an ambulance; this was not the first time Margaret’s daughter had to accompany her mother to the emergency department. Since being admitted to the hospital to the complex continuing care floor for a diabetes re-assessment, her burn has begun healing and her overall physical condition has improved. Margaret no longer needs a high level of care; yet, it would not be wise to discharge her. Margaret would happily return home alone, but her ability to make decisions has raised red flags for Margaret’s daughter, the home care workers, and the hospital nursing staff. Margaret’s daughter has four children between the ages of 18 months and 7 years of age, and is actively trying to find residential care for her mother.
Define the terms moral value, personhood, and moral agency.
Explain the cognitive criteria for determining personhood. What other criteria should be taken into consideration when determining personhood?See the article posted in the Week 8 folder on Personhood and Dementia to help you answer this question.
Summarize the research conducted to determine the perspectives of both health care workers and patients on personhood. How does one’s understanding of personhood affect clinical practice?
Read and react to the following two quotes from Peter Singer, the controversial Australian philosopher.
“The notion that human life is sacred just because it is human life is medieval.”