Concise Roman Catholic Medical Ethics

edition 2014 by J.A. Raymakers, MD PhD

1.1.10 Way of thinking of the Church in its interpretation of precepts emanating from Revelation and natural law?

The Catholic Church starts from a realistic philosophy, meaning that man is able to know the objective truth, that finally is in God, by applying his reason based on the observation of creation and from Revelation; man should let himself be guided in his actions by the objective values that are contained in this knowledge. This excludes ways of thinking that are based solely on subjective values, on materialism, relativism, utilitarism, proportionalism and consequentialism.

1.1.11 Man according to the Catholic Church

Man is a composite living being that consists of a material body and an immaterial soul – that is the principle of life of man and the bearer of his highest capacities: intelligence and free will. These make man a person; for by these capacities he can reflect on himself and his finality and be responsible for his acts.

1.1.12 Human dignity

Human dignity is the quality that confers on every human being the right of respect for his life and integrity as a person.

1.1.13 Basis of human dignity

Human dignity rests primarily on the fact that God created man after His image and likeness. This means that in man there are capacities that were directly conferred on him by God as a reflection of His own being, i.e. reason and free will.

Moreover, human dignity is based on man’s finality: the goal that God creates for every man and with which he must agree, out of free will. This goal is to achieve eternal happiness in the contemplation of God’s glory after temporal life on earth.

1.1.14 Immediate consequences of the dignity of man

These consequences are:

  1. One should preserve human life if possible;
  2. One may not intentionally kill a human being;
  3. One should not instrumentalize a human being, i.e. use him or her as a means to a purpose that is alien to him, to his wellbeing or his finality.

1.1.15 Intentional killing of a human being

Nobody is allowed to intentionally kill another person on personal authority, for whatever motive. This indictment is based on the principle of human dignity.

This does not include inflicting death as a means of self-defense (which is necessarily involuntary) and the right that the lawful authority may have to apply a death sentence as punishment for a very serious offense, where the justification is the protection of the community.

1.1.16 Instrumentalizing the human body

It is not allowed to make the human body, be it one’s own body or that of a fellow human, an instrument of an activity that aims at something that is alien to the wellbeing, the integrity and/or the finality of the person.

Any instrumental use of the human person and his body should always take into account his wellbeing and integrity and demands his full and well-informed consent (and, in the case of labour in tenure, a reasonable remuneration).