“If it’s morally acceptable to kill a fetus, why can’t we kill sleeping people?”

This argument is superficially appealing, but the comparison doesn’t hold up. A sleeping person has desires and interests just like we do, and therefore they can be harmed when those desires and interests are thwarted. Of course, when you are asleep, you aren’t consciously holding any desires in your attention. But this is also true of most of your desires even when you are awake. If you love your children, you don’t stop loving them the moment you focus your attention on something else, like a football game. Likewise, you may not be thinking, as you read this “I don’t want to be killed” or “I value my car.” Yet it would still be wrong to kill you or steal your car. 

Philosophically, these long term desires are known as dispositional desires. You have dispositional desires even when you aren’t consciously focused on them, including when you are unconscious or asleep. Those dispositional desires only go away when you die or when your brain is irrevocably destroyed. But for you or any other entity to have dispositional desires, you must first have some initial first person conscious experience. A being that has never experienced desire of any kind can’t have long term desires. 

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