Advertisement

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 191–208 | Cite as

What is the scope for the interpretation of dignity in research involving human subjects?

  • Lawrence Burns
Scientific Contribution

Abstract

Drawing on Lennart Nordenfelt’s distinction between the four distinct senses of dignity, I elucidate the meaning of dignity in the context of research involving human subjects. I acknowledge that different interpretations of the personal senses of dignity may be acceptable in human subject research, but that inherent dignity (Menschenwürde) is not open to interpretation in the same way. In order to map out the grounds for interpreting dignity, I examine the unique application of the principle of respect for dignity in Canada’s research ethics guidelines. These guidelines are unique because they consider dignity to be a foundational concept and the protection of the dignity of research subjects is regarded as a measure that prevents “the impoverishment of humanity as a whole”. While the conception of humanity invoked here is incomplete, Canada’s research ethics guidelines nevertheless represent a more European approach to biomedical policy. Finally, in order to correct a pervasive blind spot in contemporary policy on research involving human subjects, I sketch a functional model for attributing inherent dignity that avoids the untenable connotations of speciesism.

Keywords

dignity human subjects research humanity interpretation moral community Nordenfelt policy 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Baylis F., J.S. Robert: 2003, Crossing Species Boundaries. American Journal of Bioethics 3(3), 1–13PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beauchamp T., J. Childress: 2001, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 5th Ed. Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Bostrum N.: 2005, In Defence of Posthuman Dignity. Bioethics 19(3), 202–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burns L.: 2007, Gunther von Hagens’ Bodyworlds: Selling Beautiful Education. American Journal of Bioethics 7(4), 12–23. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burns, L., M. Lanoix, R. Melnychuk and B. Pauly: 2007, ‹Race, Science and a Novel: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue’, Developing World Bioethics (Online Early). doi:  10.1111/j.1471-8847.2007.00195.x
  6. Carr, D.: 1991. Educating the Virtues: An Essay on the Philosophical Psychology of Moral Development and Education. London: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Caulfield T., R. Brownsword: 2005, Human Dignity: A Guide to Policy Making in the Biotechnology Era?. Nature Reviews Genetics 7, 72–76PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chochinov H.M.: 2002, Dignity-conserving Care. JAMA 287(17), 2253–2260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Coward H., P. Ratanakul: 1998, A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Health Care Ethics. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Edgar A.: 2004, A Response to Nordenfelt’s “The Varieties of Dignity”. Health Care Analysis 12(2), 83–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fukuyama F. 2002, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. New York: Picador. Google Scholar
  12. Gallagher A.: 2004, Dignity and Respect for Dignity – Two Key Health Professional Values: Implications for Nursing Practice. Nursing Ethics 11, 587–599PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gewirth A.: 1998, Self-fulfillment. Princeton: Princeton University. Press. Google Scholar
  14. Habermas J.: 1990, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. In: C. Lenhardt, S.W. Nicholsen (eds.), Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action. Cambridge: MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  15. Habermas J.: 2003, The Future of Human Nature. Cambridge: Polity PressGoogle Scholar
  16. Hagendijk R., A. Irwin: 2006, Public Deliberation and Governance: Engaging with Science and Technology in Contemporary Europe. Minerva 44, 167–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Häyry M.: 2004, Another Look at Dignity. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 13, 7–14PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Horton R.: 2004, Rediscovering Human Dignity. The Lancet 364 (9439), 1081–1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jonsen A., S. Toulmin: 1988, The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning. Los Angeles: University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  20. Kant I.: 1996, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. In: M.J. Gregor (ed.), Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  21. Kass L.: 1998, The Wisdom of Repugnance. In: L. Kass, J.Q. Wilson (eds.), The Ethics of Human Cloning. Washington: American Enterprise Institute. Google Scholar
  22. Kaufert, J., K.C. Glass, W.L. Freeman and L. LaBine: 2004, Background Paper on Issues of Group, Community, or First Nation Consent in Research. Commissioned for the Aboriginal Ethics Policy Development Project by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Institute for Aboriginal Peoples’ Health. Available at: <http://www.umanitoba.ca/centres/cahr/cahr-research/research_ publications/research_publications_reports.html>
  23. Macklin R.: 2003, Dignity is a Useless Concept. BMJ 327, 1419–1420PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Misak C.: 2000, Truth, Politics, Morality: Pragmatism and Deliberation. New York: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  25. Müller-Hill B.: 2001, Genetics of Susceptibility to Tuberculosis: Mengele’s Experiments in Auschwitz. Nature Reviews Genetics 2: 631–634PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nencini P.: 2004, The Shaman and the Rave Party: Social Pharmacology of Ecstasy. Substance Use and Misuse 37, 923–939PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nordenfelt L.: 2003, Dignity of the elderly: an introduction. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 6, 199–101Google Scholar
  28. Nordenfelt L.: 2004, The varieties of dignity. Health Care Analysis 12(2), 69–81PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nussbaum M.: 2006, Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. The Tanner lectures on human values. Cambridge MA.: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  30. Pellegrino E.: 2005, Some Things Ought Never Be Done: Moral Absolutes in Clinical Ethics. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 26, 469–486PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pluhar E.B.: 1995, Beyond Prejudice: The Moral Significance of Nonhuman Animals. Durham: Duke University PressGoogle Scholar
  32. Prusak B.G.: 2005, Rethinking “Liberal Eugenics”: Reflections and Questions on Habermas on Bioethics. Hastings Center Report 35(6), 31–42. PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pullman D.: 2001, Universalism, Particularism, and the Ethics of Dignity. Christian Bioethics 7(3), 333–358PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rendtorff J.D.: 2002, Basic Ethical Principles in European Bioethics and Biolaw: Autonomy, Dignity, Integrity and Vulnerability – Towards a Foundation of Bioethics and Biolaw. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 5(3), 235–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schachter O.: 1983, Human Dignity as a Normative Concept. The American Journal of International Law 77(4), 848–854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Seidelman W.: 2000, The Legacy of Academic Medicine and Human Exploitation in the Third Reich. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 43(3), 325–334PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Shultziner, D.: 2003, ‹Human Dignity – Functions and Meanings’, Global Jurist Topics 3(3): Article 3. Available at: <http://www.bepress.com/gj/topics/vol3/iss3/art3>
  38. Singer, P.: 2003, ‹Animal Liberation at 30’, The New York Review of Books 50(8)Google Scholar
  39. Söderberg A., F. Gilje, A. Norberg: 1997, Dignity in Situations of Ethical Difficulty in Intensive Care. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing 13, 135–144PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ullrich, D.: 2003, ‹Concurring Visions: Human Dignity in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany’, Global Jurist Frontiers. 3(1): Article 1Google Scholar

Policies and reports

  1. Canada, Department of Justice: 2004, Assisted Human Reproduction Act, c.2. Available at: <http://laws.justice. gc.ca/en/A-13.4/2389.html>
  2. Canada, Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies: 1993, Proceed with Care: Final Report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. Ottawa: Canadian Government Publishing. Google Scholar
  3. Canada, Standing Committee on Health: 2001, Assisted Human Reproduction: Building Families. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services – Canada Publishing. Google Scholar
  4. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: 1998, Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. (With 2000, 2002 and 2005 amendments). Available at: <http://www.pre.ethics.gc.ca/english/policy statement/policystatement.cfm>
  5. Canadian Institutes of Health Research: 2006, Updated Guidelines for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research, June 28, 2006. Available at: <http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/31488.html>
  6. Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences and WHO: 1982, International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects. (With 1993 and 2002 amendments.) Geneva: WHO. Available at: <http://www.cioms.ch/frame_guidelines_nov_2002. htm>
  7. Department of Health and Human Services: 1982, 45 CFR 46 (Revised 2005). Available at: <http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/45cfr46.htm
  8. Health Canada: 2006, A Chronology of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Available at: <http://www.hc-sc. gc.ca/hl-vs/reprod/hc-sc/general/chronolog_e.html>
  9. International Military Tribunal: 1949, ‹Nuremberg Code’, in: Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law 10(2). Washington: US Government Printing Office, pp. 181–182Google Scholar
  10. Law v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration): 1999, 1 S.C.R. 497Google Scholar
  11. The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research: 1979, The Belmont Report. Available at: <http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.htm>
  12. United Nations: 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights Google Scholar
  13. UNESCO: 1997, Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights. Available at: <http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13177&URL_ DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html>
  14. World Medical Association: 1964, Declaration of Helsinki: Ethical Principles for Medical Research Including Human Subjects. (With 1975, 1983, 1989, 1996, 2000, 2002, and 2004 amendments.) Availabe at: <http://www.wma.net/e/policy/b3.htm>

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King’s University College at the University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations