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Will international human rights subsume medical ethics? Intersections in the UNESCO Universal Bioethics Declaration
  1. T A Faunce
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr T A Faunce
 c/o Law Faculty, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia;


The International Bioethics Committee (IBC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is currently drafting a Universal Bioethics Declaration (“the declaration”). The content and even the name of the declaration has yet to be finalised, but it is expected to range widely over human and non-human bioethics. It appears likely to include many articles directly related to medical ethics. The declaration may well evolve, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, into a component of international customary law, or be the precursor to an International Convention on Bioethics. This article discusses whether this process will facilitate bioethics and, in particular, medical ethics, being subsumed by the normative system of international human rights.

  • IBC, international bioethics committee
  • ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights
  • SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • UHDR, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
  • medical ethics
  • bioethics
  • human rights
  • history of medicine
  • doctor/patient relationship
  • professional regulation

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