Chapter

The “Sanctity of Life,” “Best Interests,” and “Autonomy”: An Overview

John Keown

in The Law and Ethics of Medicine

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199589555
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741036 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.003.0001
The “Sanctity of Life,” “Best Interests,” and “Autonomy”: An Overview

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This chapter provides an overview of three important ethical and legal concepts which are central to the book: the “sanctity/inviolability of life”; “best interests”; and “autonomy”. It suggests that all three have been misunderstood by lawyers and judges because of a failure to attend to certain important distinctions. The chapter considers three such distinctions. First, between the inviolability of life on the one hand and “vitalism” and “Quality of life” on the other. Secondly, between objective and subjective understandings of “best interests”. Thirdly, between autonomy as serving human goods, particularly life and health, and autonomy divorced from such service.

Keywords: sanctity/inviolability of life; best interests; autonomy

Chapter.  8871 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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