The Sanctity of Human Life: Secular Moral Authority, Biomedicine, and the Role of the State

  • Kevin WM. Wildes
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 52)


In his commentary on English law Sir William Blackstone notes that the law of nature, the moral law, is one of the foundations of the civil law. The civil law builds upon the moral duties one has to God, neighbor, and the self and it fulfills a remedial function when people violate the natural laws or fail in their moral duties ([5], pp. 42–55). This view of the law is ably articulated in our own century by Lord Patrick Devlin who understood that the state should “compel a man to act for his own good” ([13], p. 136). This view of the state presumes that society can know what the good for each man is and has the moral authority to enforce it. However, moral controversies, such as those in biomedicine, which turn on disputes over differing understandings of the good, moral virtue, or moral duty, raise questions about the moral authority of the state to resolve such controversies.


Moral Dilemma Moral Duty Paradigm Case Moral Vision Moral Authority 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin WM. Wildes
    • 1
  1. 1.Kennedy InstituteGeorgetown UniversityUSA

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