Article 6 of the Unesco Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights: A moral force in South Africa

Riaan Rheeder


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UDBHR) was accepted unanimously in 2005 by the world community, consisting of 191 member nations. This means that the declaration is currently the first and only bioethical text to which the entire world, including South Africa (SA), has committed itself. Despite this, little or no attention is paid to this declaration in SA. According to UNESCO, the declaration should be brought to the attention of the community because knowledge will promote more effective application of its principles. In an attempt to answer the call of UNESCO, article 6 of the declaration is discussed briefly in this article. It is clear that the principle outlined in article 6, as a human right, comprises two important components, namely giving information and giving consent. These two ethical values must always be applied during medical intervention and research. Where these principles are applied, human autonomy is confirmed and human dignity is expressed. Although the UDBHR is not judicially enforceable in SA, its universal nature offers a clear moral force in the bioethical debate in SA.

Author's affiliations

Riaan Rheeder, Unit for the Development of Reformed Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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Bio-ethics; Informed consent; UNESCO; Human rights

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2014;7(2):51-54. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.310

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-02-03
Date published: 2014-11-04

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