|Interview With Philosopher José Serrano
MADRID, Spain, 9 JAN. 2006 (ZENIT)
"Quality of life" is not the same
as "dignity of the person," a juridical challenge that bioethics must
elucidate, says a philosopher of law.
José Miguel Serrano Ruiz-Calderón has written a book on this subject
entitled "Juridical Challenges of Bioethics" (Eunsa), in which he
addresses the moral challenges posed by biotechnology.
The author is professor of philosophy of law at Madrid's Complutense
University and academic director of the Institute of Marketing Studies.
He was an adviser of the Spanish Ministry of Justice and a member of his
country's delegation to the U.N. agreement on cloning.
Q: What is bioethics greatest juridical challenge today?
Serrano: Perhaps the greatest challenge is to articulate a juridical
answer to bioethical questions that guarantees the values of our common
It is a question of keeping the essence of law as object of justice that
guarantees human dignity
avoiding the use of man as a means
preventing definitions of person that distinguish some human beings from
In this connection, over the last 30 years the radical agenda has made
an enormous effort to impose laws that do not recognize that all men are
persons in the juridical sense. They quickly forget the lessons of the
past, just 20 years after the end of World War II.
It is well known that contrary to what happened with totalitarianism,
the "deconstructions" of human dignity to reverse this acquisition make
use of alleged subjective rights. Thus every deed carried out against a
human group is justified by a subjective right and a liberation.
Abortion was imposed given the mother's "privacy," the reduction of the
embryo to an object given the desire for paternity-maternity, the
homicide of the defective given the autonomous desire for a dignified
death, the systematic destruction of embryos given the hope of alleged
groups of patients and so on.
Q: The sacredness of human life is called into question. Is it possible
to come to an agreement on this point with the hardest scientists?
Serrano: No. I doubt that such an agreement ever existed. In all ages
there are ideological currents that deny the sacredness of human life.
In the 20th century itself, the greater part of the world was dominated
by ideologies that expressly denied it.
Of course, there is a common tradition that expresses this principle in
a very adequate way and, in postwar legislations, precisely through the
juridical recognition of the notion of dignity, it was forcefully
However, it is well known that every time there has been a strong
interest in denying this right to some group, generally through a
restrictive definition of humanity, false argumentations have been made
with this end in mind.
We can say that there is a combination between the two causes of
corruption of justice that St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out: the false
prudence of the wise man and the abuse of the powerful. At present a
radical scientific spirit along with a certain utilitarianism are the
theoretical positions that more forcefully threaten the sacredness of
A moral absolute, such as "you shall not kill the innocent," cannot be
understood from a consequential ethic. This, we must clarify, is not a
"defect" of the formulation of the moral absolute but a proof of the
incapacity of consequential ethics to account for human action.
Q: What is the distinction between quality of life and dignity of the
Serrano: Every person is really worthy and cannot be reduced to the
condition of a means, as a carrot is that is life.
The claim of some is that not every human being has a personal
condition; that is why they say that human rights must be replaced by
the rights of the person. What is important is to affirm that every
human being, members of the species, no matter what his degree of
development or qualities, is worthy and is entitled to juridical
The height of cynicism is found in the tendency to deny the "rights of
man" to affirm the "rights of the person," another change of terms that
has ideological intentions.
Q: Why is the term "quality of life" destructive, bioethically speaking?
Serrano: It is the instrument used to deprive dignity of meaning. In the
beginning the term referred to the surpassing of certain standards of
living, seeking a way that was more in keeping with human nature which
was not merely productive.
Reinterpreted by a certain bioethics it means that whoever does not
comply with certain minimums of productive capacity and enjoyment
let us not forget that we are in brutally hedonist societies
does not have a worthwhile life.
It allows for distinctions in the unborn, the newborn, the sick, the
dying and, consequently, denies the strict right to life. It is carried
out cynically for the good of the one eliminated.
It is very revealing that to redefine the concept of lives lacking vital
value, which appeared in the brutally eugenic work of Binding and Hoche,
this apparently more sophisticated concept is constructed but which
leads to the same conclusion: Under certain levels the "quality" of
human life is not worth living nor
let us not forget it
is it worth respecting. ZE06010920