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Liras and Arenas International Archives of Medicine 2010, 3:10 http://www.intarchmed.com/content/3/1/10

Debate article

Open Access

Bioethics in biomedicine in the context of a global higher education area
Antonio Liras* and Alicia Arenas

Abstract The University is tasked with drawing together, transmitting and maintaining knowledge, while creating an area where theethical "sense" required for working in the field of Biology and Biomedicine can be provided. Although scientific knowledge is present on an overwhelming scale in nature and, therefore, its discovery is unceasing, this does not mean that, as a human being, the researcher has no limitations. It is Bioethics that sets this limit. The successful spreading of knowledge, therefore, which is proclaimedwith the creation of a Global Higher Education Area, should also pursue the establishment of the bioethical principles necessary for the credibility of science and its progress so that the society that it promotes and sustains becomes a reality. International and Global Bioethics: State of the Art In 1998, Baker [1] proffered an alternative rationale for international bioethics based on the factthat international bioethics can be reconstructed as a negotiated moral order that respects culturally and individually defined areas. The theory of a negotiated moral order is flexible to absorb the genuine insights of multiculturalism. This theory is consistent with several controversies such as the controversy over changing the consent rule for experiments in medicine and the controversy overexempting certain clinical trials. Individual human rights in the field of health care have been implemented by most international organisations, including the European Union and the World Health Organisation. The Council of Europe is, however, particularly prominent in its work in the field of human rights, thanks to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, which strengthens on aninternational level the legal position of the patient and the research subject in setting a minimum level of protection in respect of individual human rights and health [2]. Bioethics and human rights are two different systems of norms and bioethics can enrich human rights by extending the traditional catalogue of rights in new fields [3]. The Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine isthe first legally binding international
* Correspondence: aliras@hotmail.com

Department of Physiology, School of Biological Sciences, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article

biomedical law and ethics document to uphold human dignity and to provide a legal framework for societies with different sociocultural andphilosophical backgrounds [4]. Human dignity (moral sense), is a term used in moral, ethical, and political discussions to signify that a being has an innate right to respect and ethical treatment. It is an extension of Enlightenment-era beliefs that individuals have inherent, inviolable rights, and thus is closely related to concepts like virtue, respect, self-respect, autonomy, human rights, andenlightened reason. The most prominent references to dignity appear in the many international human rights instruments, such as the United Nations' universal declaration of human rights, and with few exceptions, these conventions do not address medical treatment or research. A leading exception is the Council of Europe's convention for the protection of human rights and dignity of the human being withregard to the application of biology and medicine [5,6]. At the other pole, Macklin proposes that the dignity is a useless concept in medical ethics and it can be eliminated without any loss of content [7]. The principle of respect for human dignity plays a crucial role in the emerging global norms relating to bioethics, in particular in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human...