PDC Homepage
Home » Products » Purchase

The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 21, Issue 4, Winter 2021

Derek M. Doroski, Caleb L. Estep
Pages 619-632

Examining When Life Begins by Explaining Fission and Fusion in the Human Organism

The question of when human life begins is critical in debates related to life issues. While there are a variety of proposals as to how an organism should be defined, many biologists and ethicists, particularly Catholics, have approached this issue by arguing that fertilization defines the beginning of a new organism. Examining the processes of fission and fusion, which take place before gastrulation, provides strong evidence for when human life beings and therefore how it should be defined. Among the four dominant theories, regulative fission and fusion are the best explanations in terms of being the most consistent with the biological data. This explanation of twinning provides compelling evidence that fertilization is not a necessary condition for human generation, although it may be a sufficient condition. While fertilization generates the vast majority of human beings, additional human beings may rarely be generated during fission events.