Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 395–408 | Cite as

Respect for Human Vulnerability: The Emergence of a New Principle in Bioethics

  • Henk ten HaveEmail author
Original Research


Vulnerability has become a popular though controversial topic in bioethics, notably since 2000. As a result, a common body of knowledge has emerged (1) distinguishing between different types of vulnerability, (2) criticizing the categorization of populations as vulnerable, and (3) questioning the practical implications. It is argued that two perspectives on vulnerability, i.e., the philosophical and political, pose challenges to contemporary bioethics discourse: they re-examine the significance of human agency, the primacy of the individual person, and the negativity of vulnerability. As a phenomenon of globalization, vulnerability can only be properly addressed in a global bioethics that takes the social dimension of human existence seriously.


Global bioethics Globalization Vulnerability Research ethics Philosophy of medicine 


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© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Healthcare EthicsDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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