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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dignity is a useless concept

It means no more than respect for persons or their autonomy

By Ruth Macklin
BMJ. 2003 Dec 20; 327(7429): 1419–1420.
doi:  10.1136/bmj.327.7429.1419

Appeals to human dignity populate the landscape of medical ethics. Claims that some feature of medical research or practice violates or threatens human dignity abound, often in connection with developments in genetics or reproductive technology. But are such charges coherent? Is dignity a useful concept for an ethical analysis of medical activities? A close inspection of leading examples shows that appeals to dignity are either vague restatements of other, more precise, notions or mere slogans that add nothing to an understanding of the topic.

Possibly the most prominent references to dignity appear in the many international human rights instruments, such as the United Nations' universal declaration of human rights. With few exceptions, these conventions do not address medical treatment or research.

The entire article is here.

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