Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 2, Issue 1, 2002

Massimo Reichlin
Pages 37-54

The Sanctity / Quality of Life and the Ethics of Respect for Persons

It is often argued that scientific developments in the area of biomedicine call for new ethical paradigms. Given the inadequacies of the traditional “sanctity-of-life ethics” (SLE), many have argued for a quality-of-life ethics (QLE), based on a non-speciesistic theory ofthe value of life. In this paper, I claim that QLE cannot account for the normativity of moral judgments, which can be explained only within the context of a theory of practical rationality: the peculiarity of moral normativity calls for an ethics based on respect for rational creatures. I then go on to argue that the ethics of respect for persons (ERP) is not equivalent to SLE; that it can ground the moral protection of human “marginal cases”; that it does not rely on a scientifically implausible notion of human nature; and that it is not vulnerable to the charge of speciesism. Lastly, I suggest that ERP is a strictly philosophical interpretation of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition, and that is a better interpretation than SLE. If these assertions are correct, then the necessity of a new moral paradigm is seriously undermined.