Human Dignity, Religious Ethics or Hedonism – What Can Predict Young People’s Attitudes in Germany Towards the Right to Life in the Cases of Euthanasia and Abortion?

  • Hans-Georg ZiebertzEmail author
Part of the Religion and Human Rights book series (REHU, volume 4)


This paper argues that human life must be protected and any attacks on life must be negated: a right to life, and a right to live, exists. But is there a right to terminate life, specifically in the cases of euthanasia and abortion? These two topics inevitably lead to heated discussions, as has been observed in a number of societies. The question this paper asks is: how do young people in Germany evaluate the contradicting arguments surrounding the termination of life (i.e. whether the termination of life should be prohibited or permitted) and what motives determine their attitudes towards these topics? Given that it is a core value, human dignity is taken into consideration, as are respondents’ religious convictions and the value orientation of hedonism. The research that forms the basis of this paper also asks whether young people with different religious backgrounds and religiously non-affiliated young people differ in their attitudes concerning the right to life. The empirical analysis was carried out with German young people (N = 1862) as the respondents. The findings show that young Germans legitimize the possibility of terminating life by euthanasia and, to a lesser extent, by abortion. The less student respondents are religious, the more they agree with these exceptions (i.e. euthanasia and abortion) from the rule that the right to life has to be protected. The value orientation of hedonism is the strongest predictor for a respondent having a permissive attitude towards euthanasia and abortion. The value of human dignity is found to be significant in only a few cases.


Right to life Euthanasia Abortion Human dignity Belief Hedonism Youth Empirical research 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of TheologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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