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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 the transnational discourse, with special attention paid to the case law of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Article 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 considers how this elemental approach to the analysis of human dignity can assist in structuring legal reasoning and justifying judicial choices in hard cases, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and assisted suicide.


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7 Sep 2022
462 kB



  • Subject
    • Comparative and Foreign Law

    • Human Rights Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College International and Comparative Law Review

  • Volume
    • 35

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 331

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022