The Interface Between Bioethics and Cultural Diversity Under the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights
Medicine and Law: The World Association for Medical Law 2008 June; 27(2): 401-415
The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights has made clear its aims to provide a universal framework of principles and procedures to guide States in the formulation of their legislation, policies or other instruments in the field of bioethics and also to guide the actions of individuals, groups, communities, institutions and corporations so as to promote appreciation for human dignity and to protect human rights. It also sets up 15 principles to be applied. One of the principles in the Declaration is about the recognition of cultural diversity as an important element of bioethics. Thus it is clear that bioethics has its relativeness and is susceptible to different cultures. However, in order not to have the bioethics principles being defeated because of the cultural factor, the Declaration set forth conditions to limit the application of the cultural diversity element. This approach is called "qualified absoluteness" by the author. The paper discusses these conditions and the problems arising from their applications. Basically, there is a clear line drawn to limit the application of cultural diversity in setting up and in applying bioethical rules. The line drawn is based on the concept of human rights, the principles and concepts of which have not only been set forth in the Human Rights Convention, but have also been prescribed in other provisions in the Declaration. From conceptual viewpoint, the Declaration has listed a number of soft-law rules, which in turn also provide authorization for the government or private or public groups to take cultural diversity into account. Although the rules set forth in most of the parts in the Declaration are of soft but absolute mandates in nature, the requirement of paying due regard to cultural diversity is in fact providing governments as well as groups a possibility to enact or apply their bioethical rules to reflect their cultural uniqueness. The term "qualified absoluteness" is used in this paper to reflect such interface between bioethics and cultural diversity.
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Reflections on the UNESCO Draft Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights: Universal Draft Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights Unknown author (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2005-09)