The increased life expectancy of the world population, due to better quality of life, hygiene-healthcare measures available to increasing numbers of people, and progressively expanding prevention efforts, raises new and serious challenges to which we must provide answers.
Greater longevity is also associated with an increase in morbidity with respect to other stages of life. In the elderly, these often manifest as multiple pathology, which complicate the situation of disability and dependence typical of old age.
Confronting this issue from a proper perspective requires solid ethical principles that allow the elderly and disabled to be treated as individuals in all their aspects, i.e. by respecting their dignity, providing human and material resources proportionate to their physical and psychological needs, and also facilitating the spiritual guidance that allows them to accept the loneliness, dependence, the disability itself and the event of death from a perspective of reason, which may relieve their suffering and open their hope to transcendence.
Dignity of the elderly and disabled
Post-modern society often experiences a distortion of the concept of human dignity. The influence of utilitarian theories and hedonist ethics leaves little or no room for the treatment and care of the disabled or elderly.
Dignity and usefulness often appear as closely related concepts, so that the first is inconceivable without the second. It seems that productivity (mainly economic) and the level of autonomy (applied in all senses) are what determine the level of personal dignity that might be attributed to someone.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.