Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Complicity, Fetal Tissue and Vaccines

I just got permission from the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly to post my 2006 paper on fetal tissue and vaccines. It is here.


Unknown said...

Dr. Pruss,

Could one get around your argument by saying that taking a vaccine which has been manufactured with aborted fetal cells is not morally wrong for those receiving the vaccine in the same way that it is not morally wrong to drive on a road or live in a house which were built by slaves? It seems to me that one is not complicit in slavery simply because one drives on a street built by slaves. I assume one could argue that there is no downstream complicity in the wrong of slavery because slavery no longer exists today (i.e. it's hard to contribute to an evil if the evil itself doesn't exist), though, its fruits are still used by many and, therefore, my objection is not parallel to your argument. But, do you have any thoughts on this?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, first of all, I haven't given an argument that it's wrong to use such vaccines. I think it's permissible, and sometimes obligatory, when there are no good alternatives. All I argue is that the use of the fetal tissue in ways that align with the intentions of the malefactors constitutes a moral reason against the use of the vaccine, but this moral reason can be overridden.
I think I discuss the question of things built by slaves in my 2004 paper. It's been a long time, but I think the position I had was that there is a weak reason against walking on sidewalks in Rome built by slaves. It's weak because after two millennia our alignment with the slaveowners' intentions is weak. Moreover there is a moral reason to walk on them, to acknowledge the dignity of the labor that the slaves put into building them.