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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 21, Issue 3, Autumn 2021

Patrick T. Smith
Pages 427-440

The Sanctity of Human Life, Qualified Quality-of-Life Judgments, and Dying Well Enough
A Theological Framework

This essay claims that one can consistently maintain a sanctity of human life principle that is explicitly grounded in theology, while making a kind of quality-of-life judgment regarding withholding or discontinuing life-sustaining treatments for those with advanced illnesses. For those who embrace them, resources that are specific to the Christian tradition delineate the parameters of responsibility for people dying with advanced illness and those who care for them. Those who embrace the sanctity of human life for the theological reasons provided in this essay are under no moral obligation to continue merely to sustain life at the end of life—that is, when, in view of our best available judgment, the human being (who remains inherently valuable nonetheless) will not ever be able to exemplify other human values that contribute to human flourishing, theologically understood.