Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

Human Reproductive Cloning:
A Test Case for Individual Rights?

Florian Braune, Nikola Biller-Andorno, Claudia Wiesemann

Abstract: In most societies the freedom to reproduce is limited, for vary-
ing reasons. Cloning creates a kind of test case for the denial or recogni-
tion of individual rights and the way these are balanced against other
values or interests. The moral stances taken towards reproductive auton-
omy and the doctor-patient relationship more generally reveal a lot about
the role of the individual and individual human rights in different social
and cultural contexts as well as on a global scale.
Informed consent is one of the central pillars of current international
bioethics and is generally regarded as a valuable, meaningful element in
the cross-cultural discourse on bioethics. However, in order for this con-
cept to unfold its potential, it has to be applied in a way that its culturally
varying restrictions are not ignored but spelled out and analysed.
The almost universal rejection of human reproductive cloning could lead
to the impression that there is global agreement on where to limit individ-
ual rights and why. But as a closer look reveals, the reasons for the rejec-
tion of cloning are as varied as the legitimisation and the implementation
of the concept of individual autonomy and informed consent that are
shaping the doctor-patient relationship both in reproductive medicine and
in medicine in general. For instance, in both China and Hong Kong in-
formed consent is considered a valid bioethical standard but not, how-
ever, by emphasising individual rights.

Key Words: Reproductive autonomy, Individual rights, Informed consent,
Doctor-patient relationship, Cross-cultural discourse on bioethics.


1. The Role of Individual Rights in Human Reproduction

The right to self-determination is of great importance to Western societies and is commonly seen as the basis of democracy. Interference from the political as well as the societal side can only be justified when the basic rights of others have to be protected.1 A prominent tradition in medical ethics thus holds that individual autonomy is the basis for medical decision making. Likewise, reproductive freedom is based on the idea of reproductive autonomy. If this premise is accepted, any ban on assisted reproduction will have to be rejected as long as no one is damaged or otherwise hurt. If the principle of autonomy is accepted, strong reasons

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