Chapter

Surveying the foundations of medical law: a reassessment of Glanville Williams’ <i>The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law</i>

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/9780199589555.003.0002
Surveying the foundations of medical law: a reassessment of Glanville Williams’ The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law

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This chapter notes the foundational importance to the discipline of medical law of Glanville Williams’ book The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law (1957). It argues that the book’s defects have largely been overlooked by medical lawyers and others. It identifies two of the book’s central defects. The first is its misunderstanding of the principle it attacks: the sanctity/inviolability of life. It misrepresents the principle as theological rather than philosophical and therefore fails properly to identify and engage with its philosophical basis. To the extent that it does engage with it, it largely misunderstands it. Its first defect is, therefore, to set up a “straw man”. Its second defect is to erect in its place a “hollow man”: the book fails to offer a coherent ethical framework to justify its advocacy of practices such as abortion and euthanasia.

Keywords: Glanville Williams; inviolability of life; theology; straw man; hollow man; abortion; euthanasia

Chapter.  17823 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law

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