Heartbeat

Why is a heartbeat a poor marker for the start of personhood?

Some people, recognizing that fertilization is too soon to define the beginning of personhood and that birth is too late, look to the heartbeat as a possible marker. The heartbeat as a marker for personhood is flawed for three main reasons. First, a person can indeed be alive and not have a heartbeat because of a heart attack. Second, a person can be dead and still have a heartbeat because of brain trauma. Third, a heartbeat can exist outside of and separate from a person (see the videos on this page).  A heartbeat is not an appropriate measure of personhood because it can exist outside of and separate from a person.

 

Does a Fetus have a Heartbeat at 6 weeks?

Can a real heartbeat exist without a heart? (Most people have not thought deeply about this question.)


6-week fetal heartbeat abortion bans are rooted in misinformation because 1) at six weeks gestation, there is no fetus (the embryo becomes a fetus at 8-weeks) and 2) embryos do not have hearts.

So when does a fetus have an actual, developed heart?

At 20 weeks.


Fetal heart tissue typically develops four distinct chambers by 8 weeks. Between 10-12 weeks, ultrasound can start to relay a sound that resembles an adult human heartbeat. Finally, at 20 weeks, the fetal heart demonstrates the higher-order orthotropic organization expected in fully-formed mammalian hearts (click here to learn more).

 

Donated Human Heart

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 1A

This video exhibits a real, donated human heart beating on its own, without being connected to a living person.


(Click "Watch on YouTube" in the video box to view. This video is age-restricted because it contains up-close imagery of a beating human heart.)

 

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 1B

The "Heart-in-a-Box" TransMedics Organ Care System supplies a donated human heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients, allowing a heart muscle to continue beating long after the donor's death.

 

Petri Dish Heartbeats

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 2A

These beating heart cells exist without being a part of a living person's body.

 

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 2B

These human heart cells are beating in a petri dish.

 

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 2C

Close-up view of lab-grown human heart cells beating autonomously.

 

Human Heart In a Dish Project

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 3

University of Maryland School of Medicine Researchers are growing human heart cells in a dish to better understand cardiac problems and find new treatments and cures. In this video, Dr. Charles Hong explains how this revolutionary research may someday save your life.

 

Spinach Leaf with a heartbeat

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 4

Researchers at Worcestor Polytechnic Institute graft beating heart cells into spinach leaves.

 

Living without a heartbeat

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 4A

This man is living without a heartbeat, but he is still a person!

(He did eventually get a real heart transplant, and he is now doing well! Click here to learn more about Andrew's story.)

 

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 4B

While waiting for a donor heart, this man lived without a heartbeat for 555 days, and for that entire time, despite his lack of heartbeat, he was still a person.

 

Braindead with A Heartbeat

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 5A

Another word for "brain death" is simply "death." Dead people can have heartbeats.

 

A heartbeat is not proof of personhood: Example 5B

This video explains how a dead person can have a heartbeat. The presence of a heartbeat is not proof that a living person exists.

 

The Heart Makers

This is just a cool video about the future of heart replacement.