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Duties to Past Persons : Moral Standing and Posthumous Interests of Old Human Remains
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Genetic research has increasing power to analyse old biological remains. Biological traces of well-known historical persons can reveal personal information. The aim of this thesis is to investigate ethical concerns for the dead, within the biological, historical and archaeological sciences.

In philosophy there is a long-running discussion on whether or not the dead can be wronged. The good name is proposed as a candidate of a posthumous interest. It is first of all argued that slandering per se can be wrong regardless of posthumous wronging of the dead. Secondly, the concept of change is investigated. It is argued that the property of having a reputation is a relational property. Hence a change in public opinion of a dead person, is also a change in the dead person’s reputation.

The third contribution of this thesis is a constructive proposal for how a posthumous identity could be understood using narrative theory. Understanding identity through the life-story opens up the possibility of a gradual loss of identity after death, rather than absolute loss at the moment of death. Fragments of a person‘s narrative identity can persist in other peoples’ narratives, and for some historical persons, their narratives can be found long after their death.

Finally, the implications of a remaining narrative identity for the dead are investigated in the area of archaeology and museumology. In the past 30 years, there has been increasing critique about present and past discriminatory handling of old human remains by archaeologists, in museums and in other institutions. Increasing numbers of requests have been made for repatriation or reburial of old human remains. Following an analysis of three current ethical guidelines in handling old human remains, changes to these guidelines are proposed based on a narrative method to a hypothetical claim of reburial.

Place, publisher, year, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 76 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 557
Keyword [en]
posthumous interests, moral standing, missing subject, archaeology, human remains, rights, dead, interests
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Bioethics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122508 (URN)978-91-554-7798-1 (ISBN)oai:DiVA.org:uu-122508 (OAI)diva2:310376 (DiVA)
Public defence
2010-05-29, Auditoriet Minus, Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from2010-05-06 Created:2010-04-13 Last updated:2010-05-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Queen Christina's moral claim on the living
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Queen Christina's moral claim on the living : Justification of a tenacious moral intuition
2007 (English)In: Medicine, Health care and Philosophy, ISSN 1386-7423, E-ISSN 1572-8633, Vol. 10, no 3, 321-327Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the long-running debate on the interest of the dead, Joan C. Callahan argues against such interests and although Søren Holm for practical reasons is prepared to consider posthumous interests, he does not see any moral basis to support such interests. He argues that the whole question is irresolvable, yet finds privacy interests where Tutankhamen is concerned. Callahan argues that there can be reasons to hold on to the fiction that there are posthumous interests, namely if it is comforting for the living and instrumental for society. Thus, despite arguing against the position that the dead have any interests or for any moral basis for such interests, these “interests” are still taken into consideration in the end. This shows the unsatisfactory basis of their positions and indicates the tenacity of the moral intuition that the dead can have moral claims on the living. One example of a posthumous interest is the interest in one’s good name. Here we argue that it is an interest of moral significance. This implies that if individuals restrict use of their sample when they are still alive, those restrictions apply after their death. Further, it implies that one should be concerned with the reputation of historic persons. Research that defeats these interests calls for justification. We have suggested two lines of thinking along which such a discussion could go: investigating the truth-value of the good name and the relevance of bringing it into possible disrepute.

Keyword
J. C. Callahan, the dead, duties, ethics, S. Holm, posthumous interests
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-10399 (URN)10.1007/s11019-006-9044-0 (DOI)17279433 (PubMedID)
Available from2007-03-22 Created:2007-03-22 Last updated:2010-04-13Bibliographically approved
2. Can the Dead be Brought into Disrepute?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Can the Dead be Brought into Disrepute?
2007 (English)In: Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, ISSN 1386-7415, E-ISSN 1573-1200, Vol. 28, no 2, 137-149Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Queen Christina of Sweden was unconventional in her time, leading to hypotheses on her gender and possible hermaphroditic nature. If genetic analysis can substantiate the latter claim, could this bring the queen into disrepute 300 years after her death? Joan C. Callahan has argued that if a reputation changes, this constitutes a change only in the group of people changing their views and not in the person whose reputation it is. Is this so? This paper analyses what constitutes change and draws out the implications to the reputation of the dead. It is argued that a reputation is a relational property which can go through changes. The change is “real” for the group changing their views on Queen Christina and of a Cambridge kind for the long dead queen herself. Cambridge changes result in new properties being acquired, some of which can be of significance. Although the dead cannot go through any non-relational changes, it is possible for the dead to change properties through Cambridge changes. In this sense changes in reputation do affect the dead, and thus Queen Christina can acquire a new property, in this case possibly a worse reputation.

Keyword
Callahan Joan C, Cambridge change, posthumous change, relational change, relational properties
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-32571 (URN)10.1007/s11017-007-9028-y (DOI)000248004700004 ()17549606 (PubMedID)
Available from2007-07-09 Created:2007-07-09 Last updated:2011-01-24Bibliographically approved
3. In search of the missing subject
Open this publication in new window or tab >>In search of the missing subject : narrative identity and posthumous wronging
2010 (English)In: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, ISSN 1369-8486, E-ISSN 1879-2499, Vol. 41, no 4, 340-346Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

With the advanced methods of analysing old biological material, it is pressing to discuss what should be allowed to be done with human remains, particularly for well documented historical individuals. We argue that Queen Christina of Sweden, who challenged the traditional gender roles, has an interest in maintaining her privacy when there are continued attempts to reveal her ‘true’ gender. In the long-running philosophical debate on posthumous wronging, the fundamental question is: Who is wronged? Our aim is to find this ‘missing subject’ using narrative theory.

Narrative identity emphasises the fact that no person is alone in knowing or telling their life story. People’s lives are entangled and parts of the life story of a deceased person can remain in the living realm. Since the narrative identity of a person does not necessarily end upon their death, and this narrative continues to relate directly to the person who once existed, it is the narrative subject that can continue to be posthumously wronged. Queen Christina can no longer maintain her own identity, but we maintain it by our research into her life. We propose three duties relevant for posthumous wronging: the duty of truthfulness, the duty of recognition and the duty to respect privacy.

Keyword
narrative theory, personal identity, posthumous identity, posthumous rights, historical person, privacy
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Bioethics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122505 (URN)10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.10.010 (DOI)
Projects
Duties to Past Persons
Available from2010-04-13 Created:2010-04-13 Last updated:2011-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Ethical Considerations in Reburying Old Human Remains - a narrative approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ethical Considerations in Reburying Old Human Remains - a narrative approach
(English)In: Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Keyword
Archaeology, narrative ethics, repatriation, posthumous interests
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-122507 (URN)
Projects
Duties to Past Persons
Available from2010-04-13 Created:2010-04-13 Last updated:2011-04-28Bibliographically approved

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