What is dignity?
If we had to explain 'dignity' in one sentence, we would say that - people are more important than things. In the Catholic social vision, the human person is central. Each person possesses a basic dignity that simply comes from the fact we are born in the image and likeness of God. No achievement, family background, body shape, intelligence, race, gender, age or economic status, nothing will increase nor decrease that dignity.
The human person by his nature and dignity demands an unconditional respect. This dignity may never be sacrificed for the sake of another end whatever this end might be. Thus, the test of every institution or policy is whether it enhances or threatens human life and human dignity.
Karl Rahner, The dignity and freedom of man, Theological Investigations vol 2 London: Darton Longmann and Todd, pp 235-246.