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A Defense of Dignity

Creating Life, Destroying Life, and Protecting the Rights of Conscience

Christopher Kaczor

Publication Year: 2013

Questions about the dignity of the human person give rise to many of the most central and hotly disputed topics in bioethics. In A Defense of Dignity: Creating Life, Destroying Life, and Protecting the Rights of Conscience, Christopher Kaczor investigates whether each human being has intrinsic dignity and whether the very concept of "dignity" has a useful place in contemporary ethical debates. Kaczor explores a broad range of issues addressed in contemporary bioethics, including whether there is a duty of "procreative beneficence," the ethics of ectopic pregnancy, and the possibility of "rescuing" human embryos with human wombs or artificial wombs. A Defense of Dignity also treats issues relevant to the end of life, including physician-assisted suicide, provision of food and water to patients in a persistent vegetative state, and how to proceed with organ donation following death. Finally, what are the duties and prerogatives of health care professionals who refuse in conscience to take part in activities that they regard as degrading to human dignity? Should they be forced to do what they consider to be violations of the patient's well being, or does patient autonomy always trump the conscience of a health care professional? Grounded in the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition, A Defense of Dignity argues that all human beings from the beginning to the end of their lives should be treated with respect and considers how this belief should be applied in controversial cases.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Series: Notre Dame Studies in Medical Ethics


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Though each has been revised, the collected essays that constitute this book first appeared elsewhere. I am grateful to the respective publishers for their permission to make use of this material: “The Ethics of Ectopic Pregnancy: A Critical Reconsideration of Salpingostomy and Methotrexate,” Linacre Quarterly (August 2009): 265–82; ...

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Chapter One: Introduction

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pp. 1-16

The subject of human dignity has received a fair bit of attention. Both the report of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Human Dignity and Bioethics, and the Vatican declaration Dignitas Personae have highlighted the idea of human dignity in the public eye while they have also raised important and difficult questions.1 ...

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Chapter Two: Are All Species Equal in Dignity?

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pp. 17-26

Almost everyone agrees that some human beings have dignity, basic rights, or moral worth, but whether any non-human animals have dignity, basic rights, or moral worth remains a matter of great debate. The debate over animal rights involves many different questions. Is eating meat morally permissible?1 Can hunting be justified?2 ...

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Chapter Three: Equal Dignity and Equal Access to Fertility Treatments

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pp. 27-36

If all human beings have intrinsic dignity, this dignity extends to the very beginnings of human life and the procreation of human life itself. For this reason and others, the ethical response to infertility, including the risks of IVF to women and children,1 remains a topic of much discussion.2 ...

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Chapter Four: Procreative Beneficence

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pp. 37-46

After the Second World War, eugenics earned a nearly universal bad name and was widely viewed as incompatible with human dignity, but recent ethicists have sought to rehabilitate eugenics in a non-racist, non-totalitarian form. Do we have a duty to choose children whose genetic endowments would predispose them to have the best life? ...

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Chapter Five: Embryo Adoption and Artificial Wombs

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pp. 47-68

Among those who accept the intrinsic dignity of every human being, disputes persist about whether the use of artificial wombs or the adoption of an embryo into a donor womb is permissible. In this chapter, I will offer a tentative assessment of the ethics of both embryo adoption (heterologous embryo transfer, or HET) and the use of an artificial uterus, ...

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Chapter Six: The Ethics of Ectopic Pregnancy

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pp. 69-86

If all human beings, including those in utero, deserve to be respected and treated with the human dignity accorded to every person, how then should cases of ectopic pregnancy be treated? Among those who accept that all human beings deserve equal human rights, there remains a lively debate about how to handle such cases. ...

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Chapter Seven: The Ethics of Fetal Surgery

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pp. 87-96

The ethics of fetal surgery raise numerous questions. In this chapter, I would like to consider only three. Is the fetal human being a “patient,” and if so, under what conditions? Why does the “reduction” of a twin pregnancy to one baby cause such difficulty for defenders of abortion? ...

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Chapter Eight: The Violinist Argument Revisited

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pp. 97-106

The violinist analogy for defending abortion admits the basic human dignity of an unborn human being yet still justifies abortion. The argument begins with the picture of someone who wakes up to find himself hooked up as a source of life support for a famous violinist. ...

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Chapter Nine: Faith, Reason, and Physician-Assisted Suicide

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pp. 107-124

Disputes about the dignity of the human person tend to cluster around the beginning of life and end of life. Earlier chapters have addressed several beginning-of-life issues, and the next three chapters address end-of-life issues. This chapter addresses two challenges to the view that suicide (including physician-assisted suicide) is ethically impermissible, ...

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Chapter Ten: PVS Patients and Pope John Paul II

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pp. 125-132

This chapter focuses on the ethics of removing artificially administered nutrition and hydration (ANH) from patients in permanent coma, post-coma unresponsiveness, or what is commonly but somewhat pejoratively called persistent vegetative state (PVS). A PVS state may be permanent and irreversible, or it may be temporary. ...

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Chapter Eleven: Organ Donation after Cardiac Death

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pp. 133-152

Organ donation after cardiac death (DCD), also known as nonheart-beating donation (NHBD) or non-heart-beating cadaveric donation (NHBCD), remains an issue of both ethical and practical interest, in part due to the increasing demand for viable organs. ...

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Chapter Twelve: Conscience Protection and the Incompatibility Thesis

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pp. 153-164

An operating-room nurse arrives at her weekend call shift. It is morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and Cathy De-Carlo comes to her assignment desk just as she has countless times in her five years at the hospital. But this morning is different. ...

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Chapter Thirteen: Conscientious Objection and Health Care

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pp. 165-180

In several articles,1 Bernard Dickens argues in favor of reducing or eliminating legal protection(s) for conscientiously objecting healthcare workers and institutions. This chapter examines his arguments that (1) appeals to discrimination as a basis for conscientious objection are illegitimate, ...


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pp. 181-200


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pp. 201-216


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pp. 217-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780268084608
E-ISBN-10: 0268084602
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268033262
Print-ISBN-10: 0268033269

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Notre Dame Studies in Medical Ethics