I am truly surprised that Etienne Grech (August 5) should still be touting the old abortionist’s red herring that “there can be no life before the brain has started to form”.

He argues that “death occurs when brain function ceases, hence, life must begin when brain function commences”. This line of reasoning may resonate due to its beguiling simplicity but I would have expected better from a medical practitioner.

He cites Goldenring but omits to mention that the Goldenring/Brady view violated every mainstream textbook of embryology in the known world and was clearly driven by motivations not primarily scientific in nature. It was laid to rest by Beckwith in 1991 and has been given little attention since.

The Goldenring argument puts the cart before the horse. Beckwith explained it more elegantly but the essential fact is that the older human being must have a functioning brain to coordinate and control everything whereas the youngest, that is, the embryo, does not yet need one to progress smoothly to the older stage where it does.

There are two starkly clear, reductive arguments that may help put the matter into better focus. One, an embryo is clearly a genetically whole organism. If, at any stage, it is not a living human being, on which of these two qualifications does it fail?

If not living, then the embryo must be either dead (so it must have been alive) or non-living (and, like a pebble, it will never become living). If not human, does it therefore belong to some other species, morphing by some magical process into our own at some randomly-assigned point in its life ?

Two, is it not obvious that the only conceivable starting point for an organism consisting of a huge number of coordinated cells is, and can only ever be, one?

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