Discussion Of The Sanctity Of Life Principle In Reference To Why It Should Be Abandoned Use Of Medical Examples Used To Support Contention

1608 words - 6 pages

Advancements in modern medicine have lead to the nature of death being redefined. It raises the question of what we value life for; it's biological attributes or its qualities that enable us to enjoy it? The traditional Sanctity of Life principle (SofLP) is unable to adequately answer any such questions without sounding arbitrary. By defining the doctrine, then applying it to the situation of brain dead patients, I intend to show that when the SofLP is held up against moral questions concerning modern medicine, it falls short of ever giving a rational and satisfying answer. I will then move on to prove that, by order of elimination, it is the pleasurable qualities of life that we value. I will be using arguments made by Peter Suber and Peter Singer in order to back up my contention.The SofLP subscribes to the view that taking human life is intrinsically wrong because life has intrinsic value. This means that it is always directly wrong to kill another human being, although defenders of the SofLP can make exception such as in self-defense or when at war. They believe that everybody has a right to life. It also maintains that the value of life comes before all other values and that all lives are of equal value. It does not take quality of life into consideration either, which means that an advocate of the SofLP cannot distinguish between an ancephalic baby and a healthy adult etc. As stated by Suber (1996), proponents of the doctrine find the sanctity of life at the very basis of life: vital signs, which are all there is to life when the quality of life has been overlooked. However, this isn't to say that they don't value "higher developments of life."My first point to make about the failings of the SofLP is that is doesn't take quality into consideration when speaking of the value of a person's life. This causes many problems with today's medical technology being able to prolong the lives of people with brain damage that would have died 30 or so years ago. Today we are now presented with three stages of death, the definitions of which, detailed by John Burgess (2000), are as follows:The first stage of death is when the cortex ceases to function. This leaves the patient in an irreversible coma. However, their body is able to support itself. The second stage is when the cortex and the brainstem cease to function. When this occurs, the patient is only able to stay alive if they are put on life support as the body is unable to sustain itself, where they can remain artificially alive indefinitely. The third and final stage of death is when most of, if not all of the vital life systems, such as the cardiovascular, pulmonary and central nervous system, have shut down. This is the traditional sense of death that the SofLP uses and it is the most stringent of the three stages. However, it must be noted that upholders of the SofLP are not necessarily committed to this view as they are not all extreme conservatives.The problem concerning SofLP and these...

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