The Dignity of Human Life: Sketching Out an 'Equal Worth' Approach

Ethics and Medicine 36 (1):7-17 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The term “value of life” can refer to life’s intrinsic dignity: something nonincremental and time-unaffected in contrast to the fluctuating, incremental “value” of our lives, as they are longer or shorter and more or less flourishing. Human beings are equal in their basic moral importance: the moral indignities we condemn in the treatment of e.g. those with dementia reflect the ongoing human dignity that is being violated. Indignities licensed by the person in advance remain indignities, as when people might volunteer their living, unconscious bodies for surrogacy or training in amputation techniques. Respect for someone’s dignity is significantly impacted by a failure to value that person’s very existence, whatever genuine respect and good will is shown by wanting the person’s life to go well. Valuing and respecting life is not, however, vitalism: there can be good and compelling reasons for eschewing some means of prolonging life.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

254 (#83,424)

6 months
860 (#1,278)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Helen Watt
University of Edinburgh (PhD)

Citations of this work

Do fetuses have the same interests as their mothers?Helen Watt - 2022 - In Nicholas Colgrove, Bruce P. Blackshaw & Daniel Rodger (eds.), Agency, Pregnancy and Persons: Essays in Defense of Human Life. Oxford, UK: Routledge. pp. 105-123.

Add more citations