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Protection of Human Life in Its Early Stage

Intellectual Foundations and Legal Means

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Edited By Alexander Stepkowski

The book consists of thirteen studies examining different aspects of human life protection in the early stage of its development. The contributions are arranged in three parts. Part I focuses on theoretical problems and examines the main issues of contemporary jurisprudence. The foundation of human rights, different approaches to sovereignty, the relation between law and science, the legitimacy of judicial power, and the nature of legal authority are discussed. Part II presents the issues within the national contexts of the USA, Germany, Austria and Poland. In a wider perspective, Part III examines the issue of the protection of human life in the prenatal phase on three different levels: within the EU, within the European Court of Human Rights case law and the UN system.
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Introduction: Protection of Human Life Against a Background of Contemporary Legal Culture

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If we consider the whole spectrum of different goods and values which are firmly protected by means of contemporary law, human life seems to be the least controversial of them and deserving the highest degree of protection. Indeed, there are several proofs that it is so. If we consider e.g. the issue of capital punishment for crimes, at least in Europe, denial of its legitimacy seems to be common and almost uncontroversial. If we consider all the procedural warranties limiting police or prosecution competence, as provided by law, respect for human life is still unchallengeable. Contemporary means of protecting human life are becoming more and more detailed – one could even say very sophisticated.

A deeper examination of this issue may provoke some doubts as to this prima facie impression, uncovering different approaches to the human being depending on the different stages of his or her development. Those different approaches are to a great extent uncontroversial and manifest in the legal protection for less autonomous human beings, be it in the earliest stages of human development or in its final stages. But a deeper examination of this issue again raises some doubts. There are numerous reasons put forward for the claim that – regardless of the declaration of special concern for the most vulnerable groups of people – in fact people are very often considered as deserving legal protection only as far as they are autonomous enough to look after themselves and do not need someone more autonomous to...

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