Key Points for Developing an International Declaration on Nursing, Human Rights, Human Genetics and Public Health Policy

Nursing Ethics 8 (3):259-271 (2001)
Human rights legislation pertaining to applications of human genetic science is still lacking at an international level. Three international human rights documents now serve as guidelines for countries wishing to develop such legislation. These were drafted and adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Human Genome Organization, and the Council of Europe. It is critically important that the international nursing community makes known its philosophy and practice-based knowledge relating to ethics and human rights, and contributes to the globalization of genetics. Nurses have particular expertise because they serve in a unique role at grass roots level to mediate between genetic science and its application to public health policies and medical interventions. As a result, nurses worldwide need to focus a constant eye on human rights ideals and interpret these within social, cultural, economic and political contexts at national and local levels. The purpose of this article is to clarify and legitimate the need for an international declaration on nursing, human rights, human genetics and public health policy. Because nurses around the world are the professional workforce by which genetic health care services and genetic research protocols will be delivered in the twenty-first century, members of the discipline of nursing need to think globally while acting locally. Above all other disciplines involved in genetics, nursing is in a good position to articulate an expanded theory of ethics beyond the principled approach of biomedical ethics. Nursing is sensitive to cultural diversity and community values; it is sympathetic to and can introduce an ethic of caring and relational ethics that listen to and accommodate the needs of local people and their requirements for public health
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DOI 10.1191/096973301678777190
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