In religion and ethics, inviolability or sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life which are said to be holy, sanctified, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated.

The concept of inviolability is an important tie between the ethics of religion and the ethics of law, as each seeks justification for its principles as based on both purity and natural concept, as well as in universality of application.

Sanctity of life

The phrase sanctity of life refers to the idea that life is sacred, argued mainly by the pro-life side in political and moral debates over such controversial issues as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and the "right to die" in the United States, United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries. (Comparable phrases are used in other languages.) Although the phrase was used primarily in the 19th century in Protestant discourse, after World War II the phrase has been appropriated for Roman Catholic moral theology and, following Roe v. Wade, evangelical moral rhetoric.

In contrast to the consistent life ethic, the sanctity of life principle is usually reserved for non-criminal human beings. Critics argue that the sanctity of life principle is undermined by its inconsistencies—in particular its support of the death penalty and lack of support for animal rights and vegetarianism.

In Western thought, sanctity of life is usually applied solely to the human species (anthropocentrism, sometimes called dominionism), in marked contrast to many schools of Eastern philosophy, which often hold that all animal life is sacred―in some cases to such a degree that, for example, practitioners of Jain carry brushes with which to sweep insects from their path, lest they inadvertently tread upon them.

Sanctity of life is a "plank" in the platforms of conservative parties in the United States such as the Republican Party and the Constitution Party.

See also

Selected bibliography

  • Barry, Robert Laurence The Sanctity of Human Life and Its Protection. Lanham: University Press of America.
  • Bayertz, Kurt. Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity, Philosophy and Medicine. V. 52. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic, 1996.
  • Bernardin, Joseph Louis, and Thomas Gerhard Feuchtmann (1988). Consistent Ethic of Life. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.
  • Keyserlingk, Edward W. (1979). Sanctity of Life: Or, Quality of Life in the Context of Ethics, Medicine, and Law: A Study, Protection of Life Series. Ottawa: Law Reform Commission of Canada.
  • Kass, Leon R. "Death with Dignity and the Sanctity of Life." Commentary 89 Mr 1990 (1990): 33-43.
  • Kohl, Marvin (1974). The Morality of Killing; Sanctity of Life, Abortion, and Euthanasia. New York: Humanities Press.
  • Kuhse, Helga The Sanctity-of-Life Doctrine in Medicine: A Critique. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • McCormick, Richard A. (1981). "The Quality of Life and the Sanctity of Life". In How Brave a New World? 383–402.
  • Peter Singer Unsanctifying Human Life.
  • Wildes, Kevin Wm, Francesc Abel, and John Collins Harvey. Birth, Suffering, and Death: Catholic Perspectives at the Edges of Life. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992.


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