Essay: Right to Life

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[. . .] Autonomy is also dishonored when people are pushed to do things against their will. This clearly explains why using an individual for another's gain is wrong; and so same rule applies in Baby Theresa's case too. Transplanting Baby Theresa's organs would be "using her" in every moral sense and it is wrong to kill one person to save another person's life.

Capital Punishment

Most recent facts and evidences suggested that capital punishment has a considerable deterrent effect, putting a stop to as many as eighteen or more murders for every death sentence. However, these evidences have greatly disturbed moral objections to the death penalty, as it means that a refusal to compel that penalty actually convicts numerous people to execution since among them are also those who are innocent. Thus, capital punishment gives a life-life tradeoff, as well as a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life that may be forced, rather than prohibit that kind of punishment. There are many who believe that capital punishment is morally impermissible and also innately unkind and barbaric.

Efforts should be made to pursue and develop a culture of life, because it appears that the death penalty has become a more practice punishment in United States, which of course is contrary to the sanctity of human life. Death penalty or call it capital punishment; is considered as an act where death is use to solve the moral problems of crime and violence. But it is a vehicle of violence, which in fact increases the already staggering violence which infuses the world. The word death penalty actually communicates that there is no value, importance or place for love, sympathy and forgiveness.

However, there are lots of countries who have abandoned the use of the capital punishment. Yet, a common consensus is still awaited to be formed against its use. Countries like China & United States execute thousands of people every year. Currently, around eighty-four countries retain the use of capital punishment. However, the use of death penalty is decreasing by a number of countries and there's a possibility that global opinion and pressure will slowly influence all other countries to end this practice as well. According to the famous eighteenth-century abolitionist Cesare di Beccaria;

"The death penalty cannot be useful because of the example of barbarity it gives to men & #8230; it seems to me absurd that the laws & #8230; which punish homicide should themselves commit it" (On Crimes and Punishment, 1764 as cited in Bright, 2010).

According to Beccaria;

"The punishment of death is the war of a nation against a citizen whose destruction it judges to be necessary or useful" (On Crimes and Punishments, 1764 as cited in Bright, 2010).

He was staunchly against death penalty & rightly so because of two philosophical theories given by him; social contract and utility. If one looks at the meaning of punishment then one must understand that punishment is justified only to defend the social contract, and that the kind of punishment chosen by any law / government should serve the greatest public good. Even Beccaria condemned the death penalty for two reasons;

Any country or government does not have the right to take lives; and Secondly, capital punishment is neither an effective nor an essential kind of punishment (as cited in Bright, 2010).

A punishment always has a purpose and that is to prevent crime from occurring again. This utilitarian argument is what even Beccaria elaborated the most and even proved to be influential and persuasive. Furthermore, even according to the Catholic bishops' who gave statement on capital Punishment in 1980, stated that, 'In the conditions of contemporary American society, the legitimate purposes of punishment do not justify the imposition of the death penalty.'(as cited in Bright, 2010)

Again in November 2005, the United States bishops reconfirmed their stance in a statement entitled "A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death," stating that

"The use of the death penalty is unnecessary and unjustified in our time and circumstances." (as cited in Bright, 2010)

In lieu of the above, it is clear that the right to life is not a choice but every human being must accept the entirety of human life as stated by Stephen B. Bright. This includes the protection of those who have committed sin and need compassion and forgiveness of God because even God is merciful when he punishes. Therefore, any society or government or any law doesn't possess right to take anyone's life and every human being has a right to life.

Right to life and self-defense

Another issue which comes up is when the right to life conflicts with other rights like in case of self-defense or when a woman wants to protect her own body & would like to have abortion. Here, Judith Jarvis Thomson takes a careful view on abortion. She argued that only in few cases is this acceptable (for example if a girl is raped and has an illegitimate fetus inside her and she wants to remove it) but in few cases abortion is impermissible.

According to her, the pro-lifers view that personhood begins at the initiation of one's life or conception. Majority of pro-lifers believe that once you permit that point, the matter is complete and settled. But for Thomson it is not, because that the right to life means only you have the right not to be unfairly killed (Thompson, 2005).

In her opinion the right to life is something bestowed by other human beings? Does she mean that the unborn has no right to life because the pregnant woman has not invited that life in, so to speak? In Thomson's view, human beings do not have a right to life simply by virtue of being humans and that they must be added into the family or world if wanted. The right to life that Thomson accords the unborn is supposed to be someone else's power (Thompson, 2005).

Thus, a mother has the power which she exercises when agrees on the unborn's continued existence. The unborn and their right to life, for Thomson, are passive to her power. However, the right to life of unborn human beings is not conditional or subject to someone else's control, consent or agreement. It is anchored in their humanity. Just as something is loved because it is good, and not good because it is hated, similarly, a right exists prior to it being accepted and acknowledged and therefore, is not contingent on being recognized (Thompson, 2005).


The cases of Baby Theresa, Tracy Latimer and Mary & Jodie, like many others are likely to stir up strong feelings but if we want to find out the truth, then we all must try to let our feelings be guided as much as possible by the opposing arguments. However, anything that comes first and foremost in any discussion or decision is morality, that is; to do right thing morally, in any circumstance, and this can be determined by knowing what the best reasons are for doing it.

Hence, when making a moral decision, the first thing is to get facts straight and right. After the facts have been determined we should consider the moral principles which are: we should not "use" people; that we should not kill one person to save another life; and we should not do what will benefit the people at the expense of someone else's life; because each life in this world is individually and exceptionally sacred; and that it is wrong to categorize against the handicapped merely because their life standards and qualities are not in accordance to what is normally standardized.


Bright, S.B. 2009. Why the United States Should Join The Rest of the World in Abandoning Capital Punishment. The Right Thing To Do, Fifth Edition.

Derksen, J. 2010. The Latimer Case: The Reflections of People with Disabilities - Murdered in the Name of Kindness. Accessed 11-11-11 from:

Doerflinger, R. 1989. Assisted Suicide: Pro-Choice or Anti-Life. Accessed 11-11-11 from:

Thompson, J.J. 2005. The right… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Right to Life.  (2011, November 12).  Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Right to Life."  12 November 2011.  Web.  26 May 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Right to Life."  November 12, 2011.  Accessed May 26, 2019.