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10.8Bioethics and International Treaties

Now that many of the bioethical issues have been debated on the principle of self-determination, they have become political issues today, and it is necessary to establish global common rules. Under such circumstances, Europe has tried to establish universal values regarding bioethics. For instance, the Council of Europe, with its headquarters in Strasbourg, France, which holds jurisdiction over the European Human Rights Constitution, enacted the Treaty on Human Rights and Biomedicine in 1997, and it embodied various principles related to the state-of-the-art health care and human rights in the form of a treaty. Under this treaty, protocols regarding prohibition of cloning human beings, organ transplantation and clinical experiments also came into effect. Moreover, the UNESCO, with its headquarters in Paris, adopted the Human Genome and Human Rights Declaration in 1997, and subsequently passed the declaration on the handling of genetic information in genome research as well as the declaration on the basic principles of bioethics. In addition, the UN General Assembly in New York debated a treaty for prohibition of cloning in human beings, but had divided opinions about the handling of fertilized human eggs, thus, reached no conclusions. It appears that there is still a long process of discussion required until common rules for bioethics will be set up on a worldwide level.

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The Swiss Constitution and Bioethics

Looking across the world, one can find Switzerland to be a country with a clause on bioethics stipulated in its constitution. Switzerland is a peculiar country in that it has the form of a participatory democracy. Besides electing assembly members, the country adopts the Initiatives, the procedures for policy proposals. As a result, the Swiss constitution initially became a product of various political demands bundled together; however, it was later on compiled, amended, and put on the ballot until it came into effect in 2000 as what is today as the current constitution. In this constitution, Article 119 stipulates reproductive and genetic technologies for humans (Column Fig. 10-1), Article 119a defines organ transplantation, and Article 120 spells out nonhuman genetic recombination technologies. In Switzerland, based on such provisions, specific laws concerning state-of-the-art health care such as reproductive technologies and organ transplantation have been established.

Column Figure 10-1 Swiss Constitutional Law (Examples)

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