Sunday, May 06, 2007

European Court may get test case of primate person

In bioethics, "personhood" is the gravamen of any discourse about a right to life, ranging from embryos, fetuses, and now to a possible test case involving Hiasl, a 26 y.o. male chimpanzee in Austria. The sanctuary where he has lived for the past 25 years has gone bankrupt. So that Hiasl will not become "homeless, " a Viennese attorney wishes to have Hiasl declared a "person"...meaning that "he has the right to life, the right not to be tortured, and the right to freedom under certain circumstances."
The case could end up in the European Court of Human Rights.
Among other things, if Hiasl is declared a person, he would have the right to own property and if people wanted to donate money to him, he'd have the right to receive it. Witnesses for Hiasl will include Jane Goodall.

[Editor's note: See also Great Ape Project, http://www.greatapeproject.org)

2 comments:

bob koepp said...

Well, if we can accept that a corporation is a person, why not a chimp? But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that we've addressed, let alone resolved, any metaphysical or moral questions about personhood.

Linda MacDonald Glenn said...

So true, Bob -- traditional notions of personhood are also being challenged in the arena of the abortion debate and in the melding of human and machine -- and the notion of 'evolving notions of personhood' is not going away anytime soon.