In religion and ethics, the inviolability or sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life that are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated as a violation. This can be applied to both animals and humans or micro-organismes , for instance in religions that practice Ahimsa, as both are seen as holy and worthy of life.
The phrase sanctity of life refers to the idea that human life is sacred, holy, and precious, argued mainly by the pro-life side in political and moral debates over such controversial issues as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and the "right to die" in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries. (Comparable phrases are also used in other languages.) Although the phrase was used primarily in the 19th century in Protestant discourse, after World War II the phrase has been used in Catholic moral theology and, following Roe v. Wade, Evangelical Christian moral rhetoric.
The sanctity of life principle, which is often contrasted with the "quality of life" to some extent, is the basis of all Catholic teaching about the fifth commandment in the Ten Commandments.
In Western thought, sanctity of life is usually applied solely to the human species (anthropocentrism, sometimes called dominionism), in marked contrast to many schools of Eastern philosophy, which often hold that all animal life is sacred-in some cases to such a degree that, for example, practitioners of Jainism carry brushes with which to sweep insects from their path, lest they inadvertently tread upon them.George Carlin, American social critic and author, challenged this viewpoint in his 1996 album and HBO special Back in Town.