The Moral Rubicon. A Study of the Principles of Sanctity of Life and Quality of Life in Bioethics

University dissertation from Axel Carlberg, Sandgatan 8, 223 50 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: The principles of sanctity of life and quality of life are often appealed to in medical decisions at the "edges of life." Notwithstanding their importance in bioethics, these principles are still badly understood. This study is an attempt to clarify their normative significance and content. Because these principles pertain to the more general question of the value of life, the study begins by exploring the possibility of formulating such a value in today's secular pluralistic health-care. This context is often marked by intractable moral disagreement on issues such as abortion and euthanasia. Despite this disagreement, it is argued that human life might, after all, be considered as an "ultimate" value. The author interprets the sanctity-of-life principle as affirming that human life is not self-possessed and is inviolable from the moment of conception. The quality-of-life principle, on the other hand, is interpreted as insisting that life is valuable only if it can serve the person whose life it is to acquire other values. The last chapter explores the relationship between the principles. It is argued that, despite their differences, they can be considered as compatible and that sanctity of life should receive priority in the formulation of any theory of respect for human life.

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