The report of the International Bioethics Committee on vulnerability: a review

Langlois, Adele (2018) The report of the International Bioethics Committee on vulnerability: a review. In: International biolaw and shared ethical principles: the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 144-158. ISBN 9781472483980

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The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2005, contains 28 articles, 15 of which (3 to 17 inclusive) expound bioethical principles. To help states and other stakeholders to promote and uphold these principles, UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee produces reports explaining them in depth and advising on their implementation. To date, it has published on consent (2008), social responsibility and health (2010), vulnerability (2011), traditional medicine (2013), non-discrimination and non-stigmatisation (2014) and benefit sharing (2015). In the Foreword to the first of these reports, on consent, Pierre Sané, then Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, emphasised that the principles in the Declaration are not ‘abstract’, but ‘about real and pressing ethical issues that shape our daily lives’. Thus, ‘Immediately after the adoption of the Declaration, IBC committed itself to contribute to the promotion of the Declaration by pursuing and deepening the reflection on the principles set forth therein’ (UNESCO, 2008, 5). This chapter analyses the International Bioethics Committee’s report on vulnerability in the light of the broader bioethics literature on this subject. The report elaborates Article 8 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, ‘Respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity’:
"In applying and advancing scientific knowledge, medical practice and associated technologies, human vulnerability should be taken into account. Individuals and groups of special vulnerability should be protected and the personal integrity of such individuals respected. (UNESCO, 2005)"
The chapter draws not only on the report itself, but the author’s observations of the drafting process and subsequent discussions at meetings of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee and Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee in 2010 and 2011. The report makes a significant contribution to bioethical reflections on the concept of vulnerability by (a) broadening its application beyond the research context, to healthcare and biotechnology and (b) considering societal as well as individual means of addressing vulnerability. Yet for these means to be implemented by states, ethics committees and communities, more detailed examples and guidance will be required.

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Keywords:Vulnerability, Bioethics, UNESCO
Subjects:L Social studies > L240 International Politics
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:32531
Deposited On:18 Oct 2018 15:10

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