Bioethics and "Human Dignity"

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35 (2):180-196 (2010)
The term "human dignity" is the source of considerable confusion in contemporary bioethics. It has been used by Kantians to refer to autonomy, by others to refer to the sanctity of life, and by still others to refer—albeit obliquely—to an important but infrequently discussed set of human goods. In the first part of this article, I seek to disambiguate the notion of human dignity. The second part is a defense of the philosophical utility of such a notion; I argue that there is nothing implausible about appealing to a deontological "principle of dignity" to solve bioethical problems, especially those concerning the development of new biotechnologies. There may, however, be problems associated with any attempt to use dignity as a basis for public policy. This sort of worry is explained and briefly addressed in the final section.
Keywords bioethics  dignity
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/jhq010
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