The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 10, Issue 3, Autumn 2010

Ashley Fernandes, MD
Pages 529-546

The Loss of Dignity at the End of Life
Incommunicability as a Call and a Demand

The permissibility of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is actively debated worldwide. Writers such as Ruth Macklin and Steven Pinker have argued that dignity is not a useful concept in bioethics and cannot be used legitimately by either side in the debate. In this essay, the author expands on a defense of the human person based in dignity and rooted in the work of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) and Gabriel Marcel. He defends the idea, introduced by John F. Crosby, that a human person has dignity because of her “unrepeatableness,” a concept known as incommunicability. The author argues that the concept of dignity—far from being abstract, useless, or dangerous, as some writers have recently claimed—is a practical and vital protection for persons. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 10.3 (Autumn 2010): 529–546.