Balancing the principles: why the universality of human rights is not the Trojan horse of moral imperialism [Book Review]

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4):653-661 (2013)
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The new dilemmas and responsibilities which arise in bioethics both because of the unprecedented pace of scientific development and of growing moral pluralism are more and more difficult to grapple with. At the ‘global’ level, the call for the universal nature at least of some fundamental moral values and principles is often being contended as a testament of arrogance, if not directly as a new kind of subtler imperialism. The human rights framework itself, which provided the basis for the most relevant international declarations and documents, is not exempt from the charge. However, the refusal of a top-down conception of the universal as a sort of product for exportation should not be confused with a relativistic landscape, where all the cows can be indifferently black or white. This contribution aims at outlining an approach, which reconciles universalism as enshrined in founding human rights declarations with respect for cultural diversity. In order to do so, two conceptual frameworks are discussed: the ‘tool-kit’ model and the morals/ethics difference. The example of the right to quality health care confirms the argument that striking a balance between cherishing pluralism and defending some fundamental rights and obligations does not amount to an assertion of moral imperialism



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The diversity of bioethics.Henk ten Have & Bert Gordijn - 2013 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 16 (4):635-637.

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References found in this work

The idea of justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The concept of law.Hla Hart - 1961 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Taking rights seriously.Ronald Dworkin (ed.) - 1977 - London: Duckworth.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

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