Personhood theorists claim that one who becomes permanently unconscious has lost personhood. Some even claim that such people are “dead.” In any event, personhood theorists hold that a permanently unconscious human being is of materially less moral value than persons (perhaps including animals), and hence, can be harvested for organs and used in medical experimentation in ways that would be wrong to do in persons.
I disagree adamantly with that. But this terrible story about the sentencing of a sexual predator of the profoundly disabled makes me wonder: If a patient who is non aware has lost much of their moral value due to their cognitive disability, can they truly be sexually molested? If so, is the crime just as wrong, or should it be deemed akin to violating a corpse–which under law is punished less severely as sexually assaulting a living person.
The creep got 45 years in a plea bargain, the least he deserved. True, some of his victims were conscious. But should that matter? No! And it didn’t in this case, in which the prosecutors treated the violation of the unconscious just as seriously as that of the conscious. This is as it should be because the unconscious are–and should be so treated–as fully human persons possessing full human dignity, not as mere meat or quasi-cadavers.