Value of Life Vs. Sanctity of Life — Outlines of a Bioethics That does without the Concept of Menschenwürde

  • Wolfgang Lenzen
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 52)


The aim of the Bielefeld-conference was to determine the role played by the concepts of Menschenwürde and of “sanctity of life” within ethical considerations of modern medicine and biosciences. The lively discussion has shown that, on the one hand, there is a variety of morally wrong actions which violate the “Menschenwürde” of certain individuals; on the other hand, despite its frequent use in philosophical, theological, and legal argumentations the concept of Menschenwürde turned out to be largely dispensable in the sense that the immorality of most, if not all, of these actions may as well be explained without resorting to it. At least it was my personal impression that the papers presented at the conference failed to provide convincing examples of medical or bioscientific practices which (1) are generally considered as morally illicit; (2) violate the principle of “Menschenwürde”; and (3) are such that their moral wrongness cannot be established on independent grounds. The aim of the present paper is to reinforce the claim of the moral redundancy of the concept of Menschenwürde by outlining a system of bioethics which does without it. The key idea of this system is to replace the notion of “sanctity” of life by a more fruitful conception of the value of life to be developed in section III. First, however, let me present my ethical theory.


Spina Bifida Golden Rule Public Affair Total Utility Future Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wolfgang Lenzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of OsnabrückGermany

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