"Sanctity of Life or the Quality of Life Principle, is society forced into a moral vacuum?"

Essay by elle_ryanCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 2005

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In a paper 'Against the Sanctity of Life', Peter Suber writes:

Modern life-prolonging technologies have sharpened some ancient dilemmas on the value of life. Our ability to sustain vital signs virtually as long as we wish pointedly raises the question whether we value life for its electrical efflorescence or for qualities that might be enjoyed by the person whose life is in jeopardy. ...The more heroic the methods they use, the more the duty to preserve merely cardio-pulmonary life is rendered a grotesque anarchism. The vicious cycle is not inescapable. But it can only be broken by clarity and courage: the clarity to look closely at complex questions and the courage to make very difficult decisions without much help from our unequipped ethical, religious, and legal traditions. We must rethink the nature and value of life.

In Suber's view, this rethinking process must lead to the abandonment of the traditional doctrine of the sanctity of life.

Peter Singer and Jonathan Glover both argue for a similar view. Are they right?

Modern medicine has blurred the once clear distinction between life and death; we are now able to prolong life or at least a semblance of it almost indefinitely. This has caused much controversy between different parts of society; we must now ask ourselves if the traditional doctrine of sanctity of life can continue to serve as an indisputable moral rule. Peter Suber in his paper "Against the Sanctity of Life" argues that we must abandon the traditional sanctity of life doctrine and rethink the nature and value of life. Peter Singer also argues for a similar view in his text "Practical Ethics". I will argue that the doctrine of the Sanctity of Life no longer is equipped to hold sway in our medically advanced society; we must re-evaluate what...