On 19 October 2005, the UNESCO General Conference adopted the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. This Declaration contains a number of principles (Articles 3-17) among which is the principle of “respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity” (Article 8). The text of this Article is as follows:

“In applying and advancing scientific knowledge, medical practice and associated technologies, human vulnerability should be taken into account. Individuals and groups of special vulnerability should be protected and the personal integrity of such individuals respected.”

The question is how UNESCO detect each case of human vulnerability

The question naturally arises: Who are “individuals and groups of special vulnerability”?

An initial response would be to say that they are all those who have little means to defend their own rights. This occurs mainly for two reasons: either because they themselves fail to make their voices heard; or because others have decided to marginalize, discriminate against, abuse or persecute them.

Although not an exhaustive list, we can recall how many human beings fall within “groups of special vulnerability” for one or both of the abovementioned reasons:

  • children,
  • the sick (especially the mentally ill),
  • the elderly,
  • the poor,
  • refugees,
  • women in many parts of the planet, etc.

Bioethics opinion

Our Bioethics Observatory can not be indifferent to the UNESCO‘s statement in defense of the principle of “respect for human vulnerability and personal integrity”. We hope that this timely statement can be translated into facts.


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