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The Law and Ethics of MedicineEssays on the Inviolability of Human Life$
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John Keown

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.001.0001

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

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

(p.3) Chapter 1 The “Sanctity of Life,” “Best Interests,” and “Autonomy”: An Overview
The Law and Ethics of Medicine

John Keown

Oxford University Press

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

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