Sanctity of life

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In religion and ethics, the inviolability of life, or sanctity of life, is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life that are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated. This can be applied to both animals and humans or micro-organisms; for instance, in religions that practice Ahimsa, both are seen as holy and worthy of life. The value is inherent: Life is created in the womb (or artificial environment to mimic womb).

In Christianity[edit]

The phrase sanctity of life refers to the idea that human life is sacred, holy, and precious. The sanctity of life is inherent as man cannot create life. Therefore, man has no authority to destroy life. It is the only way for humankind to exist. Although the phrase was used primarily in the 19th century in Protestant discourse, since World War II the phrase has been used in Catholic moral theology and, following Roe v. Wade, Evangelical Christian moral rhetoric.[1]

The sanctity of life principle, which is often contrasted with the "quality of life" to some extent, is the basis of all Catholic teaching about the sixth commandment in the Ten Commandments.[2][3][4][5]

In Eastern religions[edit]

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 Jainism carry brushes with which to sweep insects from their path, lest they inadvertently tread upon them.[6]

In logic[edit]

To expand into other areas of philosophy, ask the following question: "Would you kill Hitler in 1939?". Both possible answers (yes/no) can be seen as contrary to sanctity of life. Answering this question is a clear way to distinguish individuals with a consequentialist or deontological personal sense of morality.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Drutchas, Geoffrey Gilbert (1996). Is Life Sacred? The Incoherence of the Sanctity of Life as a Moral Principle within the Christian Churches. Lancaster Theological Seminary.
  2. ^ Ronald M. Green (1999). "Jewish Teaching on the Sanctity and Quality of Life". In Edmund D. Pellegrino; Alan I. Faden (eds.). Jewish and Catholic Bioethics: An Ecumenical Dialogue. Georgetown University Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 9781589013506.
  3. ^ Anthony Fisher (2011). Catholic Bioethics for a New Millennium. Cambridge University Press. pp. 238–239. ISBN 9781139504881.
  4. ^ David F. Kelly; Gerard Magill; Henk ten Have (2013). Contemporary Catholic Health Care Ethics. Georgetown University Press. pp. 32–38. ISBN 9781589019614.
  5. ^ Scaria Kanniyakonil (2007). The Fundamentals of Bioethics: Legal Perspectives and Ethical Aproches. Oriental Institute of Religious Studies India. pp. 229–230. ISBN 9788188456284.
  6. ^ "Jainism Literature Center - Jain Education".

Further reading[edit]

  • Barry, Robert Laurence (2002). The Sanctity of Human Life and Its Protection. Lanham: University Press of America.
  • Bayertz, Kurt (ed.) (1996). Sanctity of Life and Human Dignity. Philosophy and Medicine; v. 52. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Bernardin, Joseph Louis; et al. (1988). Consistent Ethic of Life. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.
  • Kass, Leon R. (March 1990). "Death with Dignity and the Sanctity of Life". Commentary. New York: American Jewish Committee. 89 (3): 33–43. ISSN 0010-2601. PMID 11652555.
  • 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. ISBN 9780662104452.
  • Kohl, Marvin (1974). The Morality of Killing; Sanctity of Life, Abortion, and Euthanasia. New York: Humanities Press. ISBN 9780391001954.
  • Kuhse, Helga (1987). 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". How Brave a New World?: Dilemmas in Bioethics. New York: Doubleday: 383–402.
  • Singer, Peter (2002). Unsanctifying Human Life: essays on ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Wildes, Kevin Wm.; Francesc Abel; John C. Harvey (1992). Birth, Suffering, and Death: Catholic Perspectives at the Edges of Life. Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic.