Personhood across the Lifespan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A prominent group of theories in bioethics hold that an individual’s moral status, the totality of moral consideration we owe to that individual, depends very significantly on whether the individual is a person. Only persons have full moral status, including the right not to be killed. Personhood theory has significant implications for how we should ethically and conceptually treat individuals who are not persons or whose personhood is in question. This chapter initially outlines the main elements of personhood theory and discusses the main complications and criticisms of this approach. Because of the size of the literature, the exposition is necessarily selective and not exhaustive. The latter part of the chapter then analyses different possible approaches to personhood across the lifespan and the ethical implications they raise, with a particular focus on the implications for the moral status of the old among us.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of the Ethics of Ageing
EditorsChristopher Wareham
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781108861168
ISBN (Print)9781108495134
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2022


  • Moral status
  • old age
  • Personal Identity
  • personhood

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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