If we base a person’s right to dignity, their humanity, on their capacity to suffer, prosper, reason, and choose, then a portion of the population is suddenly no longer worthy of rights or status as a human being. A person with compromised mental function has less ability to reason and choose. As do small children. Does this mean they are worth less?
Another danger is basing human worth on contribution. If a person is the sum of their contribution to society, then again we get a portion of the population that is worthless.
An elderly man who has limited ability to work, a veteran who has lost her legs, an infant who is totally dependent on his family. Are they able to work like the rest of us? Nope. Are they worthless? Nope. But why?
I hope everyone who reads this is moved to give this matter a little thought. I also found a good article on the topic for some more immediate examples. The author is speaking from a Catholic perspective, so some readers might not agree with everything she says, but the basic subject is rooted in the same concept that I am talking about. Here is the link for the article.
(As a matter of fact, I'm speaking from a Catholic perspective, but I intentionally omitted theological reasoning to emphasize how universal and fundamental this concept of intrinsic human value is.)
I was inspired to write this by an article I read on Word On Fire, a Catholic website with lots of theological resources. I can't find the original article, or I'd credit it and post a link. :(