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Council of Europe Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights, 1998


The Council of Europe is an organization of 47 European and Central Asian nations that works to foster democracy and human rights. Much of the Council’s work focuses on international agreements, which are often open to signatories that are not Council members. The Council maintains a Bioethics Division within its Legal Affairs field, guided by a Steering Committee on Bioethics (CDBI).

The Council’s landmark Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights was opened for signatures in 1997 and went into force in 1998. It explicitly prohibits inheritable genetic modification, somatic genetic modification for enhancement purposes, social sex selection, and the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes:

Article 13 – Interventions on the human genome: An intervention seeking to modify the human genome may only be undertaken for preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic purposes and only if its aim is not to introduce any modification in the genome of any descendants.

Article 14 – Non-selection of sex: The use of techniques of medically assisted procreation shall not be allowed for the purpose of choosing a future child's sex, except where serious hereditary sex-related disease is to be avoided….

Article 18 – Research on embryos in vitro: … 2. The creation of human embryos for research purposes is prohibited.

Human reproductive cloning was banned by an amendment to the Convention, the Additional Protocol on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings:

Any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead, is prohibited.

The Convention has been signed and ratified by twenty-one member states, and signed without ratification by another thirteen. The Additional Protocol on Cloning has been signed and ratified by sixteen member states, and signed without ratification by another fifteen. Upon ratification, the documents are legally binding.

Last modified July 6, 2006


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