Human Rights, Dignity, and the Science of Genetic Engineering

Social Philosophy Today 22:43-57 (2006)
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In the past decade several international declarations have called for banning reproductive non-therapeutic and germ-line engineering. Article 11 of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights states that practices that are contrary to human dignity such as cloning of human beings should not be permitted. Article 12 of the same declaration restricts genetic applications to the relief from suffering and the improvement of health. The European Council has also taken a strong stand on germ-line genetic engineering in general and cloning in particular. Article 13 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine simply forbidsgerm-line engineering except for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The convention along with its explanatory report make it clear that the rationale for the decision is based, in large part, on the need to protect the dignity of persons.Several notions of dignity have been advanced to support bans on non-therapeutic germ-line engineering. I argue that they fail to provide a rationale for such a ban. I consider both secular and religious views of human dignity. In addition, I argue that there are forms of germ-line and non-therapeutic engineering that are compatible with human rights



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