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Clados, Mirjam Sophia (2012): Bioethics in international law: an analysis of the intertwining of bioethical and legal discourses. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science and the Study of Religion



This thesis discusses implications of framing bioethical concerns in international legal discourse. It starts from the observation that legal approaches to questions of bioethical relevance have become dominant frameworks for addressing many bioethical concerns at the international level. In particular, the UN General Assembly has long attempted to regulate human cloning processes through an international Convention. Similarly, UNESCO and the Council of Europe have both addressed a variety of bioethically relevant issues, such as the processing of human genetic data, the ethics of research or organ transplantation within international legal standards. It is in the context of this strong connection between international law, international legal discourse and bioethics that this thesis seeks to analyse what exactly happens when issues of bioethical relevance are discussed within such a framework, how this affects the way bioethical issues are conceptualized, conceived of and dealt with, and, ultimately, how well-suited or successful international legal discourse is in its attempt to resolve current bioethical questions. Following the methodological approach of discourse theory, this thesis bases its analysis on the assumption that where and when international legal standards, as manifestations of an international legal discourse, serve as framework for bioethical debate that also somewhat defines how bioethically relevant issues are approached, thought of and dealt with within that framework, that it somewhat determines what methods are used to resolve such issues and that it somewhat limits the range of conceivable and viable solutions to these issue. The thesis thereby does not aim to demonise or abrogate legal approaches to bioethics and it does not understand the implications discussed in this thesis to be necessarily good or bad. To the contrary, it will be shown that legal approaches to bioethics can and have contributed to the development of the field in several important ways. Yet, this thesis also shows that it is worthwhile to closely examine implications that follow from a specific legal approach to bioethical issues as these implications are not always easily perceived. Given the important, and often dominant or near exclusive role of international law and legal discourse in the area of bioethics as well as the former's strong influence on bioethical debates as a whole, the implications of addressing questions of bioethical relevance within an international legal discourse should at least be understood and acknowledged, a contribution that this thesis aims to make. Moreover, only if these implications are understood is it possible to ask whether engaging in that type of discourse is at all a valuable enterprise and whether or not international legal standards directly addressed to questions of bioethical relevance constitute a suitable means to effectively address questions in the area of bioethics.