A being is a moral patient if they are included in a theory of the good (also known as an axiology or theory of value). While it is normally agreed that typical humans are moral patients in this sense, there is debate about the patienthood of human embryos, non-human animals, future people, and non-biological sentients.

Moral patienthood should not be confused with moral agency.[1] For example, we might think that a baby lacks moral agency - it lacks the ability to judge right from wrong, and to act on the basis of reasons - but that it is still a moral patient, in the sense that those with moral agency should care about their well-being.

If we assume a welfarist theory of the good, the question of patienthood can be divided into two sub-questions: Which entities can have well-being? and Whose well-being is morally relevant? Each question can in turn be broken down into the question of which characteristics or capacities are relevant and the question of which beings have those capacities....

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