What is a human being?

March 31, 2012

Stephen Woodworth, Conservative MP for Kitchener Centre, wants Parliament to discuss what it means to be human. He points out that under Canada’s definition of human, children are not human beings until birth. He argues that advances in medical science have made that definition outmoded.

He has introduced a motion in Parliament calling for a special committee to be formed to look at the definition of human being, report back on the medical evidence and make recommendations on how to deal with the current law. He says the law is based in limited 17th century medical knowledge and does not reflect 21st century understanding of medical science.

Mr. Woodworth acknowledges that the topic is relevant to the abortion issue but that it goes beyond that. Canada at present has no laws restricting abortion at any stage. Approximately 500 late-trimester abortions are performed in Canada each year, with about 50 resulting in children who are born alive but then are allowed to die under the category ‘termination of pregnancy.’

“A respectful dialogue to update a 400 year old definition of human being with the aid of twenty-first century information will benefit everyone. Whatever view one has about other issues, does it make medical sense in the twenty-first century to say that a child is not a human being until the moment of complete birth?  Members of Parliament have a duty not to accept any law that says some human beings are not human.”

The motion is expected to be debated in Parliament in March, with a vote on forming the committee expected to take place in May or June. The Committee would have to be formed shortly after the passage of the motion and report back to Parliament within 10 months.  I think this is a topic that needs discussion.

What do you think?