Personhood and Severely Invalid Persons

These debates would be linked to the position of severely invalid persons like persons with Acute Dementia in the ward I did my practical work in. Questions to be addressed include, who are they? What is their position in the society? And what moral and ethical obligations do health professionals like nurses owe to such persons.
In my study of philosophy, I had on question on my mind and this was from my practical work. The question was, what is the position of people with acute dementia. The are seriously invalid and have a tough existence. I therefore began to wonder how their rights to health care accrued and why the state decided to respect their rights as human beings. I began to find out why we are required, as health professionals to take good care of them. I found a lot of answers about the fundamental rights of seriously invalid persons in my study of philosophy and readings on the theories on personhood.
From my readings, I identified that personhood has been debated thoroughly in history. The Founding Fathers of America decided to grant equal rights to all the colonialists to kind of liberate them from the harsh rules of the British colonialists. This became the fundamental principles of human rights which became part of the United Nations’ conventions over 170 years after America gained independence in 1776.
Merrill (1998) argues that in the world today, personhood is the basis of rights. She states that “the person is to ethics as the cell is to biology: the minimal basic unit” (Merrill, 1998). Personhood therefore forms the basis for the definition of moral theory. The society depends on the mutual recognition of personhood (Elridge, 1989). Thus, the fundamentally flawed societies failed to attribute respect to the personhood of certain people. Examples include Nazi Germany which killed six million Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals because in their view, these persons did not have rights that guaranteed them life and justice. Aside these people, Germans with acute mental issues like those with down syndrome and acute dementia like those I cared for during my practicals were a blotch to the pure Aryan race the Nazis sought to raise. They were separated and most of them were killed. This is because they were not viewed as humans or persons, under the Nazi philosophy. Also, there is evidence of several people in the Nazi concentration camps being used for experiments like twins, blue eyed person and midgets/dwarfs. This is because such persons were not considered to be ‘persons’. Eventually, Nazi Germany was invaded by the Allies and this was seen as a triumph of good over evil. The United Nations was formed in 1945 to protect the rights of people in all parts of the world. In the long run, it is clear that the nations that led the United Nations and Allied course had studied important elements of ‘personhood’ and that forms the basis of moral ethics today which defines the fundamental rights of patients including people with severe dementia. Locke, who was one of the earliest philosophers whose concepts supported human rights argued that an individual defines himself in a given way. That is what sets the foundation of his identity. Once this is done, the individual is viewed as he defines himself or herself and define him or her as a ‘person’ (Locke, 2003). Thus, it is more of self which evolves to the person. In Locke’s second treatise, it was concluded that a society is a collection of persons (2003). Due to this, persons come together to collectively define the structures of a society. As such, they should have rights in order to live a meaningful life. Kant on the other hand, believed in the theory of individual

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