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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 19, Issue 1, Spring 2012

Geoffrey F. Scarre
Pages 1-16
DOI: 10.5840/pcw201219112

Privacy and the Dead

The privacy of the dead might be thought to be violated by, for instance, the disinterment for research purposes of human physical remains or the posthumous revelation of embarrassing facts about people's private lives. But are there any moral rights to privacy which extend beyond the grave? Although this notion can be challenged on the ground that death marks the end of the personal subject, with the consequent extinction of her interests, I argue that a right to privacy belongs to deceased persons in virtue of their moral status while alive and reflects their interest in the preservation of their dignity. The paper investigates what prima-facie privacy rights and interests may plausibly be ascribed to the dead and why these need to be taken seriously by those, such as archaeologists or biographers, who have "dealings with the dead."

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