The United Nations Scientific, Education, and Cultural Organization Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UDBHR) expresses in its title and substance a controversial linkage of two normative systems: international human rights law and bioethics. The UDBHR has the status of what is known as a “nonbinding” declaration under public international law. The UDBHR's foundation within bioethics (and association, e.g., with virtue-based or principlist bioethical theories) is more problematic. Nonetheless, the UDBHR contains socially important principles of technology transfer and transnational benefit (articles 14, 15, and 21). This paper is one of the first to explore how the disciplines of bioethics and international human rights law may interact in the UDBHR to advance the policy relevance and health impact of such principles. It investigates their normative ancestry in the UDBHR, as well as relevant conceptual differences between bioethics and public international law in this respect, and how these may be relevant to their conceptual evolution and application.

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