Biomedical Ethics in Europe: Defining Patients' Rights

When the Council of Europe defined human rights for research subjects, medical patients and organ donors for the first time this past April, Ludger Honnefelder was on the committee that drafted the “Convention on Biomedical Ethics.” Mr. Honnefelder, professor of philosophy at Bonn University, will speak about these issues on Thursday, October 2, at 4:30 p.m. in Yale Divinity School’s Common Room, 409 Prospect St. The talk is free and open to the public.

The principles established by the Convention on Biomedical Ethics emphasize the preservation of human dignity and identity, give priority to the interests of the individual over those of science or society, and require consent for legitimate medical interventions.

Formalizing those principles will have a major impact on medical research and the development of new therapies. The requirement for consent, for example, makes it illegal for children to donate organs to their siblings, since minors cannot legally give consent. The need to maintain human dignity and identity is the basis for a ban on any intervention in the human genome which affects heredited characteristics.

Twenty-two of the 40 member states of the Council of Europe signed the internationally binding convention on April 4, 1997; it will have legal force when their parliaments ratify it. The convention already governs research funded by the European Union.

Professor Honnefelder’s talk is jointly sponsored by the Yale Divinity School and the Alexander von Humboldt Association of Connecticut. For further information, contact Rega Wood at 432 5671.

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