Rethinking Birth, Death, and Everything in Between

Should abortion be permitted until the fetus's birth? Bioethicist Jacob Appel believes so, arguing that any other guideline is too arbitrary to be legally justifiable, or enforceable. Indeed, his actual "philosophical drawing line" would lie somewhere after birththough he concedes that in practice "we couldn't live in a world" where this policy existed. Provocative yet matter-of-fact, Appel wades into the moral issues surrounding not only abortion but also infanticide, fetal organ trading, euthanasia, and numerous other medical controversies in his Big Think interview this week.

Acknowledging that concepts such as life and personhood are politically sensitive but philosophically difficult to pin down, Appel believes we should "grant great latitude"to mothers who commit infanticide due to post-partum depression, "treat[ing] them with kindness as someone who suffers from illness." At the other end of life's spectrum, he defends a patient's right to choose physician-assisted suicide but supports euthanasia only "very sparingly," as in cases of permanent paralysis without communication.


In the latter half of the interview, Appel fields questions as an award-winning fiction writer whose career has nevertheless known its share of obstacles: he claims to have received over 20,000 rejections. Asked how to survive that much discouraging feedback, he advises that the trick is to get your work past "the intern or college student first reading your work," recalling that he himself, in his clueless intern days, once hung up on the poet Allen Ginsberg.

Related Articles

To save us, half of Earth needs to be given to animals

We're more dependent on them than we realize.

(Photo Lily on Unsplash)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists says our survival depends on biodiversity.
  • A natural climate strategy we often forget.
  • Seeing our place among the Earth's living creatures.
Keep reading Show less

New infographics show how cigarette smokers are socially penalized

There's a high social cost that comes with lighting up.

(Porch)
Sex & Relationships
  • The home improvement company Porch recently polled 1,009 people on their feelings about smoking.
  • The company recently published the results as infographics.
  • In terms of dating, 80 percent of nonsmokers find the habit a turnoff
Keep reading Show less

The "catch" to being on the keto diet

While short-term results are positive, there is mounting evidence against staying in ketosis for too long.

Brendan Hoffman / Getty
Surprising Science
  • Recent studies showed volunteers lost equal or more weight on high-carb, calorie-restricted diets than low-carb, calorie restricted diets.
  • There might be positive benefits to short-term usage of a ketogenic diet.
  • One dietician warns that the ketogenic diet could put diabetics at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.
Keep reading Show less