The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 19, Issue 4, Winter 2019

Br. Columba Thomas, OP, MD
Pages 545-557

Human Dignity as Concept and Lived Experience
Applying Insights from Evangelium vitae to the End-of-Life Context

In Evangelium vitae, Pope St. John Paul II addresses euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide by striking a balance—maintaining the inherent dignity of all persons while considering the lived experience of those struggling to see dignity amidst suffering. Subsequently, a debate about the word dignity has led to clarifications from the President’s Council on Bioethics (under President George W. Bush) regarding different uses of the word. This essay relies on the work of the council, especially an essay by Edmund Pellegrino, to provide a basis for reflecting on John Paul II’s approach to dignity in Evangelium vitae in terms of concept and lived experience. To further develop these insights, an alternative framework is proposed for thinking about dignity in the practical setting.