Thursday, October 20, 2005

UNESCO’s General Conference adopts Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights

Read the full UNESCO press release.

"UNESCO’s General Conference, gathered in Paris for its 33rd session, today adopted the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The text, adopted by acclamation, 'addresses ethical issues related to medicine, life sciences and associated technologies as applied to human beings, taking into account their social, legal and environmental dimensions.' The Declaration meets a genuine and growing need for international ethical standards in this area. This need is due to the proliferation of practices that go beyond national borders, often without a regulatory framework: biomedical research projects and experiments carried out simultaneously in different countries; importing and exporting of embryos, stem cells, organs, tissue and cells; and the international transfer of tissue and DNA samples and genetic data."

Here are links to some of the comments made on the Declaration on various blogs and other sources:

Canary in the Mine: "Though ignored in the US press, this past week saw the culmination of more than a decade of negotiations on a document that could prove one of the keys to the human future...This past week, UNESCO's General Conference unanimously approved the Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. While the details of the document are mostly unexciting...the very fact of its endorsement shows that every nation now has the biopolicy agenda on its radar screen. And while for the US statements of this kind may not be very influential, for many smaller countries and most of the developing world they have huge significance. Many nations will use the declaration as the basis of national policies..."

Global Bioethics Blog: "This month’s issue of Developing World Bioethics is devoted, in its entirety, to an examination of the draft Declaration and to speak of a ‘mixed review’ might be a bit charitable. The editorial draws first blood by calling the Declaration an obvious attempt on the part of UNESCO to muscle in on the authority of the World Health Organization on issues pertaining to the ethical regulation of biomedical research. UNESCO, writes the editorial, is an organization with little credibility among in the wider bioethics community and is best known for holding ineffectual (but costly) meetings and producing colorful booklets. Given its weak track record and dubious expertise, the predictable result is a Declaration that fails to state universal principles, redundantly lifts phrases from existing documents, is out of touch with some current bioethics debates, and offers misleading points of ‘guidance’. One thing is sure: Article 10 of the draft Declaration is a truly devastating piece of bioethics parody. “The fundamental equality of all human beings in dignity and rights is to be respected so that they are treated justly and equitably.” The deadly serious tone makes it all the more amusing." (This entry also seems to be quoted in full in blog.bioethics,net, The Editors Blog of the American Journal of Bioethics.)

HealthLawProfessorsBlog: "In the relatively short history of the relatively new discipline of bioethics, historical perspective can be difficult to come by. Thus, it is anybody's guess whether the recently published UNESCO's Universal Draft Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (24 June 2005) will prove to be the seminal document its authors intend it to be."

CoreEthics.Org: "‘CORE is very pleased that this Unesco declaration has been passed with the total agreement of its members,’ said Josephine Quintavalle. ‘We attended some of the sessions when the text was under discussion and frankly did not imagine that we would see such an encouraging outcome. We are particularly delighted that the document uses the term ‘human being’ rather than ‘persons’ throughout the text. This is a great victory for those of us who do not accept the gradualist view of human life."

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