A philosophical and critical analysis of the european convention of bioethics

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 25 (2):133 – 146 (2000)
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The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with Regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine is now one of the most important bioethics texts from the point of view of international policy and law. It is the result of five years of discussions and negotiations between the different instances of the Council of Europe. In this article I analyze several problems. First, there are problems of articulation between the Convention and the joint Explanatory Report. The oriented exegesis of the Explanatory Report raises suspicion about the Convention, which appears as a smooth façade for an instrument actually serving ideological positions many people do not share. Second, there are problems of formulation within the Convention. These are mainly problems with articles that state prohibitions without any distinction, relativization, contextualization or sense of evolution. Finally, there are problems of substance, leading to the conclusion that the Convention is not a good illustration of the human rights philosophical tradition in the name of which it has been proclaimed. This tradition is the one of Enlightenment. And when Kant summarizes the motto of Enlightenment, the injunction is "Sapere Aude!": "Dare to know!" It is difficult to hear such a message through the Convention, and the Explanatory Report includes too many passages and sentences that mean the opposite.



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