Bioethics, Health Law, and Human Rights
In his compelling novel Blindness, José Saramago tells us about victims stricken by a contagious form of blindness who were quarantined and came to see themselves as pigs, dogs, and “lame crabs.” Of course, they were all human beings—although unable to perceive themselves, or others, as members of the human community. The disciplines of bioethics, health law, and human rights are likewise all members of the broad human rights community, although at times none of them may be able to see the homologies, even when responding to a specific health challenge.
The boundaries between bioethics, health law, and human rights are permeable, and border crossings, including crossings by blind practitioners, are common. Two working hypotheses form the intellectual framework of this book: we can more effectively address the major health issues of our day if we harmonize all three disciplines; and American bioethics can be reborn as a global force by accepting its Nuremberg roots and actively engaging in a health and human rights agenda. That these disciplines have often viewed each other with suspicion or simple ignorance tells us only about the past. They are most constructively viewed as integral symbiotic parts of an organic whole.