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A Dialogue on Species-Specific Rights: Humans and Animals in Bioethics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2009

David C. Thomasma
is the Fr. Michael I. English, S.J. Professor of Medical Ethics and Director of the Medical Humanities Program at Loyola University Chicago Medical Center.
Erich H. Loewy
is Professor and Alumni Chair of Bioethics at the University of California, Davis.


At the end of the most violent century in human history, it is good to take stock of our commitments to human and other life forms, as well as to examine the rights and the duties that might flow from their biological makeup. Professor Thomasma and Professor Loewy have held a long-standing dialogue on whether there are moral differences between animals and humans. This dialogue was occasioned by a presentation Thomasma made some years ago at Loewy's invitation at the University of Illinois, Peoria, Medical Center. During that presentation, Thomasma argued that human beings are sufficiently distinct from other animals genetically and otherwise to justify a moral difference in rights and obligations. In effect, he argued that there are species-specific rights. This essay will pick up the threads of that dialogue.

Special Section: Expanding the Boundaries of Bioethics
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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