Human dignity, bioethics, and human rights

Audrey Chapman


Commitment to human dignity is a widely shared value. Human dignity also serves as the grounding for human rights. In recent years, protection of human dignity has also emerged as a central criterion for the evaluation of controversial technologies, like cloning and embryonic stem cells.
This article addresses the question as to whether human dignity is or could be a useful concept for bioethics and human rights. It begins with a discussion of the under-conceptualisation of human dignity. The next two sections identify the diversity in conceptual approaches to human dignity in bioethics and human rights. The following section considers some of the problems with using human dignity as an evaluative standard. The article then proposes initial developmental steps to enable the concept to be applied in a more precise and meaningful way, based on Martha Nussbaum‟s capabilities approach.


bioethics; law; human dignity;

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Copyright (c) 2011 Audrey Chapman

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