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A baby plays with a dog--we need to expand moral status and agency

Shifting the Moral Burden: Expanding Moral Status and Moral Agency

by Dr. L. Syd M Johnson

Date: December 8, 2021

Who matters enough to warrant a right to health?

In this paper, Dr. L. Syd M Johnson proposes a broad and inclusive view of moral status and a right to health.

Dr. Johnson looks at the dispute around who matters morally and highlights the fact that people have long marginalized humans and  animals as a “pretext for denying their rights, including the right to health care, to reproductive freedom, and to bodily autonomy”—as well as to justify exploiting, mistreating, and killing them.

She also proposes that moral status be focused on the responsibilities and obligations of moral agents, and that the definition of who and what is a moral agent should be expanded to include not just individuals, but also “entities such as corporations and states that have some of the traits of moral agents—power, freedom, and the capacity to recognize and act on the demands of morality.”

These collective entities, she says, should bear some of the burden of moral responsibility for the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet, since they “uniquely have the capacity to attend to global-scale health threats, such as pandemics and human-caused climate change.”

Read the essay.

This essay is part of the Special Section of the December 2021 Health and Human Rights Journal, edited by PZI’s co-founder and president, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian.


Article citation:

Johnson, L. Syd M. “Shifting the Moral Burden: Expanding Moral Status and Moral Agency.” Health and Human Rights Journal 23, no. 2 (8 December 2021): 63-73.

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