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The Law and Ethics of MedicineEssays on the Inviolability of Human Life$
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John Keown

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.001.0001

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Surveying the foundations of medical law: a reassessment of Glanville Williams’ The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law

Surveying the foundations of medical law: a reassessment of Glanville Williams’ The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law

Chapter:
(p.23) Chapter 2 Surveying the foundations of medical law: a reassessment of Glanville Williams’ The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law
Source:
The Law and Ethics of Medicine
Author(s):

John Keown

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589555.003.0002

This chapter notes the foundational importance to the discipline of medical law of Glanville Williams’ book The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law (1957). It argues that the book’s defects have largely been overlooked by medical lawyers and others. It identifies two of the book’s central defects. The first is its misunderstanding of the principle it attacks: the sanctity/inviolability of life. It misrepresents the principle as theological rather than philosophical and therefore fails properly to identify and engage with its philosophical basis. To the extent that it does engage with it, it largely misunderstands it. Its first defect is, therefore, to set up a “straw man”. Its second defect is to erect in its place a “hollow man”: the book fails to offer a coherent ethical framework to justify its advocacy of practices such as abortion and euthanasia.

Keywords:   Glanville Williams, inviolability of life, theology, straw man, hollow man, abortion, euthanasia

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