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Democratic Legitimacy of Ethical Decisions - Ethics and Law in the Areas of Biotechnology and Biomedicine - [German]


Apr 2006 - Apr 2011


Jelena von Achenbach

Max-Planck-Insitute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535

69120 Heidelberg


Phone: +49 (0)6221-482 507 Fax: +49 (0)6221-482 375

E-Mail: nwgv@mpil.de
URL: http://www.mpil.de/ww/en/pub/organization/jun...oup.cfm


Dr. Silja Vöneky


Jelena von Achenbach, Miriam Clados, Dr. Stéphanie Dagron, Cornelia Hagedorn

Short Description:

Independent Junior Research Group

In times of rapid changes in the areas of biotechnology and modern medicine, legislators are often forced to react quickly to ethical problems as well as to make decisions that touch upon the very foundation of our society. This holds true for national legal systems and – on a different scale – at the European and international levels.

Dr. Silja Vöneky’s research team, consisting of four junior researchers, examines the democratic legitimacy of legal decisions with ethical implications through discursive processes as well as the relationship between ethics and law in the context of administrative, constitutional, European and international law. More specifically, the team addresses the question of how in each of these legal areas and systems ethics and law differ, influence each other or contribute to the other discipline’s development. The analysis will be carried out in the context of biotechnology and modern medicine since in both these fields it is regularly necessary to form far-reaching and fundamental solutions to contested ethical questions.

One particular difficulty then arises from the fact that in the areas of biotechnology and medicine ethical questions cannot simply be resolved by recourse to an established ethical and legal consensus in society. Rather, common standards still need to evolve and develop. And even if common standards are found they often need to be reconsidered in the light of scientific progress and technological innovations. However, for law to remain able to quickly fill potentially ensuing lacunae, it has to have the means to overcome pluralistic and even dissenting opinions in a society. Guidance is thus needed on the questions of whose ethical perspectives and traditions should prevail and on how to arrive at sound legal judgments in the absence of uniform perspectives.

Given this status quo there remains the question of how to deal with such ethical and legal challenges in a democratic manner at the national, European and international levels. This also raises both the question of a viable definition of what may count as a “democratic” solution in each of the aforementioned legal systems and at each level and the question of what constitutes a “democratic” norm-developing process.


biotechnology – cloning – embryo research – embryonic stem cells – ethics committees – ethics of science – eugenics / enhancement – genetic research / engineering – genetic testing / counseling – granting of patents – human experimentation – human genetics – philosophy of nature – theory of ethics

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