Is the Death Penalty Ethical?


The Death Penalty (DP) becomes more controversial especially after Pope Francis revised the New Roman Catechism declaring that DP is ‘inadmissible in all cases.' This disturbs the conscience of Catholic Justices, Senators, and Politicians—globally. The Papal pronouncement is premised on DP’s attack against human dignity—which is an Ethical issue. My paper focuses on: Whether DP is really an attack against human dignity? Arguments FOR or AGAINST DP remain unsettled. For the Abolitionists, DP attacks human dignity by infringing the inalienable right to life, but uncertain in what way it violates such right. The Retentionists, maintain, on the contrary, that DP defends such right, however, the explanation is likewise unclear. The controversy lies on the meaning of inalienability of the ‘right to life’ which ‘no man can give up and no one can take it away from him.’ Does DP take away the right to the life of the criminal? If so, how? Or, in what manner it does not? My paper argues that ‘right to life’ is the combination of two distinct orders: ‘right’ (moral order), and ‘life’ (biological order). Thus, ‘right to life’ means the person has the moral claim (right) to biological existence (life). I propose that by his heinous crime, the criminal departs from the moral order—leaving behind his ‘right’ which he lost by his crime. In this instance, the State can now take away NOT his ‘right’—but his LIFE as the just penalty for defiling the right to life including his own.

Author Information
Reynaldo Reyes, University of Santo Tomas, Philippines

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2019
Stream: Ethics - Ethics, Law, and Justice

This paper is part of the ACERP2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon