Yet another guideline? The UNESCO draft declaration

Ruth Macklin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Some people might argue that there are already too many different documents, guidelines, and regulations in bioethics. Some overlap with one another, some are advisory and lack legal force, others are legally binding in countries, and still others are directed at narrow topics within bioethics, such as HIV/AIDS and human genetics. As the latest document to enter the fray, the UNESCO Declaration has the widest scope of any previous document. It embraces not only research involving human beings, but addresses broader concerns in medicine and healthcare. The UNESCO draft declaration has some minor weaknesses, but on the whole, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. One weakness is that some items in the draft are stated in a way that is too restrictive, thereby appearing to rule out legitimate activities. A strength of the Declaration is that it is relatively brief, yet at the same time contains sufficient detail to make it something more than a rehearsal of mere pieties. As the most recent of the numerous bioethics and human rights documents, the UNESCO draft draws on many of the earlier documents and also includes some of the most recent thinking about ethical norms and obligations. Perhaps its greatest strength lies not in details of the principles or their implementation, but rather in its stature as an international declaration issued by a United Nations organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-250
Number of pages7
JournalDeveloping World Bioethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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