Global Bioethics at UNESCO: In Defence of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights
Journal of Medical Ethics 2007 March; 33(3): 150-154
The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on 19 October 2005 is an important step in the search for global minimum standards in biomedical research and clinical practice. As a member of UNESCO International Bioethics Committee, I participated in the drafting of this document. Drawing on this experience, the principal features of the Declaration are outlined, before responding to two general charges that have been levelled at UNESCO's bioethical activities and at this particular document, are outlined. One criticism is to the effect that UNESCO is exceeding its mandate by drafting such bioethical instruments--in particular, the charge is that it is trespassing on a topic that lies in the responsibility of the World Health Organization. The second criticism is that UNESCO's reliance on international human rights norms is inappropriate.
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