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Bioethics and health and human rights: a critical view
  1. D Benatar
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr D Benatar
 Philosophy Department, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa; dbenatar{at}


Recent decades have seen the emergence of two new fields of inquiry into ethical issues in medicine. These are the fields of bioethics and of health and human rights. In this critical review of these fields, the author argues that bioethics, partly because it has been construed so broadly, suffers from quality control problems. The author also argues that the field of health and human rights is superfluous because it does nothing that cannot be done by either bioethics of the law.

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  • * That there are disciplinary standards in most disciplines does not entail that those standards are always met. Clearly there are better and worse scholars in any discipline. Thus, for example, there are moral philosophers who do moral philosophy badly. My argument does not commit me to denying this. I am arguing only that widespread disciplinary slip in the field of bioethics results in even more poor quality work than would be the case if the bioethics were construed narrowly or if bioethics in its broad construal had disciplinary standards.

  • Competing interests: None

  • This paper is based on a presentation given at the Sixth World Congress of Bioethics, that was held in Brasilia, Brazil from 30 October to 2 November 2002.

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