dignity

The intrinsic importance and value that a person has, that warrants respect from other people and for themselves; having a state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect. This short definition reflects the two historical and conceptual origins: the theological idea of inherent human value and the humanist idea of the respect owed to a rational being.

These elements are also reflected in research. The inherent value of human beings informs the obligation of researchers to minimise risks to research participants while the respect owed to rational beings is the basis for requirements about consent to participation. In her rejection of the value of the concept, Macklin (2003) argues that it means no more than respect for human beings. This position, by focussing on only one of the sources of the term, ignores the theological contribution of ‘inherent human value’ that is relevant to assessing the risks that research may pose for participants and its effects on other humans. (See also Autonomy and Consent).

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