'Here, There and Everywhere': Human Dignity in Contemporary Law and in the Transnational Discourse
64 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2011 Last revised: 12 Jun 2012
Date Written: August 30, 2011
Over the past several decades, human dignity has become an omnipresent idea in contemporary law. This Article surveys the use of human dignity by domestic and international courts and describes the concept’s growing role in transnational discourse, with special attention paid to the case law of the United States Supreme Court. The Article then examines the legal nature of human dignity, finding it to be a constitutional principle rather than a freestanding fundamental right, and develops a unifying and universal identity for the concept. At its core, human dignity contains three elements - intrinsic value, autonomy and community value - and each element has unique legal implications. The Article then considers how this elemental approach to human dignity analysis can assist in structuring legal reasoning and justifying judicial choices in hard cases, such as abortion, same-sex marriage and assisted suicide.
Keywords: Human dignity, constitutional law, comparative law
JEL Classification: K30
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