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FOCUS - Human Rights N. 1 - 13/03/2017

 Bioethics, human rights and their interplay in the legal reasoning of ECtHR’s case law on artificial reproductive technologies

The nature of the relationship between bioethics and international human rights is far from being uncontested in the scholarly debate. Rather, scholars from different academic backgrounds (lawyers and philosophers, as well as political scientists and physicians) enliven the discussion on the dynamics governing the liaison between the two disciplines. According to some authors, modern bioethics and human rights share historical origins, as they both developed in response to the same events (namely, the Second World War, the Holocaust and the crimes committed by the Nazis) and were fuelled by identical social forces. On the other hand, other scholars believe that the two disciplines have different roots, as most bioethical principles emerged more recently than human rights standards, in particular in the last decades of the twentieth century. A major point of discrepancy, however, concerns the possibility of identifying a fruitful interplay between bioethics and human rights. A number of authors recognize an overlap between the two disciplines, even forecasting the gradual subsumption of bioethics in human rights, or - at least - envisaging reciprocal benefits in their interplay, while confirming the need to keep them separated. However, many bioethicists remain sceptical with regard to the meaning and role of human rights in bioethical debates. The same idea of rights pertaining to the human being as such appears to be precarious: “the first and perhaps most important bioethical criticism of human rights is that bioethicists tend not to find much merit in the concept of ‘human rights’ itself”. Others consider that the “rights” discourse may even have a detrimental effect on the bioethics debate: “the idea of rights is objectionable and creates many difficulties all of which reflect the limits of the law in terms of shaping and influencing decision-making in bioethical issues”...(segue) 



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