"moral patient" means "entities that are eligible for moral consideration". as a recent post i've liked puts it:
And also, it’s not clear that “feelings” or “experiences” or “qualia” (or the nearest unconfused versions of those concepts) are pointing at the right line between moral patients and non-patients. These are nontrivial questions, and (needless to say) not the kinds of questions humans should rush to lock in an answer on today, when our understanding of morality and minds is still in its infancy.
in this spirit, i'd like us to stick with using the term "moral patient" or "moral patienthood" when we're talking about the set of things worthy of moral consideration. in particular, we should be using that term instead of:
because those terms are hard to define, harder to meaningfully talk about, and we don't in fact know that those are what we'd ultimately want to base our notion of moral patienthood on.
so if you want to talk about the set of things which deserve moral consideration outside of a discussion of what precisely that means, don't use a term which you feel like it probably is the criterion that's gonna ultimately determine which things are worthy of moral consideration, such as "conscious beings", because you might in fact be wrong about what you'd consider to have moral patienthood under reflection. simply use the term "moral patients", because it is the term which unambiguously means exactly that.