Peter J. Riga


The right to life of the person and its various applications in different political situations is one of the most debated subjects of our day. This question is important today for a number of reasons: the widespread demand for abortion, the drive for the right to die, and the challenge to capital punishment. The debate seems at times to be confused: those opposing all forms of war and capital punishment seem to approve of abortion; while others vehemently opposed to abortion, approve of war and capital punishment. But this inconsistency disappears once an absolute view of man's right to life is recognized. Under an absolute view of man's right to life, capital punishment is never justified. This article hopefully contributes to the philosophical-moral debate on the question of the human right to life. It first exam- ines various international covenants and philosophical schools and their ambiguous conceptualization of man's right to life. The article, in the context of capital punishment, then develops a theory of man's absolute right to life. The right to life is con- sidered absolute because it is necessary to maintain two essen- tial characteristics of man, his mystery and his priority-setting ability. Because capital punishment denies these essential char- acteristics, it is never justified.