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Dignity v. Dignity. The Significance of the Notion of Human Dignity in the Human Rights Tradition and its use in Bioethics

Lebech, Mette (1998) Dignity v. Dignity. The Significance of the Notion of Human Dignity in the Human Rights Tradition and its use in Bioethics. Studies in Ethics and Law, 7. pp. 29-38. ISSN 1395-962X

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Dignity is a key-notion in both the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of Human Rights. . The Charter of the United Nations (1946) reaffirms "faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and the worth of the human person". The war had just ended, with its depressing and disillusioning experience of treason and organised crime against humanity. The best word the drafters could find to express what they wanted respected in each and every surviving individual was "dignity". They didn't say lIautonomy". They had seen people freely vote for Hitler to flee unemployment and poverty. They had seen them collaborate in deporting millions of Jews, seen them kill and sterilise for eugenic purposes. They had collaborated themselves. Left to their own free will, people did not always behave rationally or well. This was one of the basic lessons learnt by the survivors. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), expresses some of this experience when it testifies that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace." Probably a universal agreement on these terms had not been possible a century before. The Declaration is a unique achievement.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Dignity; Notion of Human Dignity; Human Rights Tradition; Bioethics;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > Philosophy
Item ID: 3520
Depositing User: Mette Lebech
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2012 12:41
Journal or Publication Title: Studies in Ethics and Law
Publisher: Centre of Ethics and Law, University of Copenhagen
Refereed: Yes

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