Human rights and bioethics

Commission on Human Rights resolution 1997/71


The Commission on Human Rights,

Recalling that, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recalling also the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want, as recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights,

Seeking to preserve the dignity and integrity of the human being,

Recalling the right of everyone, as recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications,

Convinced, in accordance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of the benefits to be derived from the encouragement and development of international contacts and cooperation in the scientific field,

Recalling the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whereby no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation,

Recalling also the Principles of Medical Ethics relevant to the role of health personnel, particularly physicians, in the protection of prisoners and detainees against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 37/194 of 18December1982,

Emphasizing that, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, States are obliged to protect children against any form of violence,

Aware of the rapid development of the life sciences and the dangers that certain practices may pose to the integrity and dignity of the individual,

Seeking to ensure that scientific progress benefits individuals and develops in a manner respectful of fundamental human rights,

Recalling in this connection its resolutions 1991/45 of 5 March 1991 and 1993/91 of 10 March 1993,

Referring to decision 1994/108 of 19 August 1994 of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities regarding this question,

Recognizing in this regard the need for international cooperation in order to ensure that mankind as a whole benefits from the life sciences and to prevent them from being used for any purpose other than the good of mankind,

Taking note of the adoption by the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe, on 4April 1997, of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine,

Taking note also of the draft international declaration on the human genome and the protection of human rights, currently being prepared by the UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which is intended to establish the principle of the fundamental unity of all members of the human family and to ensure recognition of the dignity inherent in each of them, in the light of scientific and technological developments in the areas of biology and genetics,

Convinced of the need to develop a life sciences ethic at the national and international levels,

1. Takes note again with satisfaction of the report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.4/1995/74);

2. Invites Governments, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, in particular the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Health Organization, and other intergovernmental, particularly regional, organizations and non-governmental organizations to inform the Secretary-General of activities being carried out to ensure that the life sciences develop in a manner respectful of human rights and beneficial to humanity as a whole;

3. Also invites Governments to inform the Secretary-General of legislative or other measures taken to this end;

4. Draws the attention of Governments both to the importance of research on the human genome and its applications for the improvement of the health of individuals and mankind as a whole and to the need to safeguard the rights of the individual and his dignity, as well as his identity and unity, and to the need to protect the confidentiality of genetic data concerning a named person;

5. Invites Governments to consider establishing independent, multidisciplinary and pluralist committees of ethics to assess, notably in conjunction with the International Bioethics Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the ethical, social and human questions raised by the biomedical research undergone by human beings and, in particular, research relating to the human genome and its applications, and also invites them to inform the Secretary-General of the establishment of any such bodies, with a view to promoting exchanges of experience between such institutions;

6. Requests the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, under the agenda item entitled "Human rights and scientific and technological developments", to consider ways of ensuring that the life sciences develop in a manner fully respectful of human rights and beneficial to humanity as a whole and to make recommendations to that effect;

7. Requests the Secretary-General to prepare a report on the basis of these contributions for consideration by the Commission at its fifty-fifth session.

67th meeting
16 April 1997

[Adopted without a vote. See chap. XII.]



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