Are anencephalic babies persons?

What is the Church’s teaching on anencephalic newborns?

What else would they be, if not persons? Kittens? Turtles?

I don’t understand your question.

In what regard?

A couple of points:

a) questions regarding the personhood of such babies is presumed in favour of the baby. They are treated with the full dignity and rights proper to all persons.

b) they are quite likely to die anyway. They are due all reasonable care and especially relief from suffering, but as with all people at the brink of death, there is no need to go to extraordinary lengths to prolong their life.

I guess I am just wondering what we consider them, dead or alive? Are they a person even if they lack a brain and the potential to ever develop one? I read an article by Father Tad Pacholcyzk’s on brain death where he explains that a brain dead person is essentially dead. So if a newborn has no brain, is that child even considered alive?

They will generally die soon after birth anyway, so why rush to pronounce them brain dead and thus legally dead?

If it is for the purpose of organ donation, I do not believe there is any need to rush this. Their proper death is imminent and then organ donation can take place.

Frankly, apart from on a purely philosophical level, I see no merit in your question. On a philosophical level, my answer is that it is God’s choice as to whether to ensoul any person, and the Church takes great care in treating any product of conception as though it were a person unless definitively determined otherwise (eg a molar pregnancy).

A person cannot live without a brain. Babies with anencephaly have serious brain defects but have some brain tissue.

Ah… The Church recognizes whole brain death as a means of determining when someone is dead (IOW the separation of soul and body – no longer a person). It is generally assumed that babies with anencephaly probably undergo neocortical death. Does the Church accept neocortical as a way of determining the death of an individual?

Some babies with anencephaly can live for a few months. They are God’s children, the very essence of innocence.

“Probably” isn’t good enough!

But even if it was certain that these babies have undergone neocortical death, does the Church teach that this means that someone is officially dead?

All infants have a soul. From the moment of conception. So yes, they are a person.

I know of no Church teaching one way or the other, and I believe it remains an open issue among bioethicists.

The Church, addressed through recent popes, recognises that determining death is a medical issue. The Church also has accepted brain death as a reasonable criteria for determining death.

Neocortical death remains an issue for debate, medically and ethically.

So the direct answer to your question “does the Church teach that this means that someone is officially dead?” is NO.

Okay thanks for clearing that up. I think my overall question has been answered too. Anencephalic babies are persons regardless of their cognitive abilities and severe brain disability.

No problem.


Baby angela defies the odds

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