Indignities: Making a Place for Human Dignity in Modern Legal Thought
Queen's Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 61. 2002
34 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2008
Date Written: January 1, 2002
Respect for human dignity is highly valued in our society, yet in a practical sense the concept of dignity has not been very influential in shaping our legal conventions. Rather, we think of dignity as an abstract concept that underlies our social and legal norms. A more concrete concept of dignity, from which legal rules can be generated, can be constructed within the context of tort law. The focus is on the specific area still referred to in Anglo-Canadian jurisprudence as "intentional infliction of nervous shock." Courts in the United States have long recognized emotional distress as sufficient to ground a cause of action, independent of physical harm. In recent cases involving abuse of authority, Canadian courts too have held that freedom from emotional distress is an interest that should be legally protected. However, this concept of emotional tranquility is too weak a foundation on which to expand tort law. Dignity, as a legally protected interest, is the appropriate basis for development of this area of the law,and that the next logical step is to replace the tort of intentional infliction of nervous shock with a dignity-based tort.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation