Dignity is seen commonly as an ethical obligation owed to human persons. The dimensions of this obligation in today's post secular society are, however, subject to wide discussion and debate; for the term, human dignity, and its preservation, defies universal agreement. Yet, its preservation, together with the prevention of indignity, is a guiding principle or at least a vector of force in a wide range of issues ranging from recognizing and protecting the civil rights of the citizen members of the LGBTQ community throughout the nation to the care of the disabled and to the dying.
In clinical medicine, safeguarding the dignity of the patient is a core responsibility of all physicians to respect patient autonomy and to act with beneficence in health care decisions. Similarly, in protecting the civil rights of free association for all Americans--without reference to gender or sexual lifestyle preferences--contemporary society must accord non-judgmental respect for the actions of its members so long as that conduct is neither harmful nor illegal.
Foundational instruments such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights all codify a mandate to ensure human dignity within various contexts of international conduct. The notion itself is stated normally in grandiloquent terminology without more, and always subject to progressive realization rather than absolute recognition. Ongoing international efforts must continue to be taken to guide the actions of states in seeking to set and to maintain levels of cultural and social conduct, which serve to safeguard human dignity throughout life and especially at its end-stage.
Within the United States, five states and the District of Columbia legislatively, and one, judicially, moved toward recognition of a right to die with dignity (when confronted with a diagnosis and a prognosis of medical futility is commendable); for, such actions validate the very essence of autonomy and self-determination, which are correctly viewed as the bulwark of the social order of American society.
George P. Smith II, “Dignity in Living and in Dying”: The Henry H. H. Remak Memorial Lecture, 25 IND. J. GLOBAL LEGAL STUD. 413 (2018).