By Barbara T. Lanigan

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By contrast, like its immediate predecessor, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission,∗ the President’s Council was launched by executive authority and, strictly speaking, answers to the President and to the President alone. The mandates of the two bodies reveal an even more striking difference. S. Congress endowed the National Commission with an ambitious but precisely detailed agenda, along with a set of specified outcomes or required “deliverables”; with one exception, the “deliverables” were all inquiries involving human subjects research, anchored to the explicit expectation that their findings and recommendations would inform, or even decisively shape, the formation of federal law and regulation.

20th-century constitutions and international declarations: Finally, another prominent yet problematic source for the introduction of “human dignity” into contemporary bioethical ∗ One will not, for example, find much hint of human dignity in Kant’s definition of marriage as “the association of two persons of different sex for the lifelong reciprocal possession of their sexual faculties” (die verbindung zweier Personen verschiedenen Geschlechts zum lebenswierigen wechselseitigen Besitz ihrer Geschlechtseigenschaften); my own translation from Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals [Die Metaphysik der Sitten] (Königsberg: Nicolovius, 1797), Part I, Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Right, §24.

DIGNITY UNDERSTOOD AS HUMANITY—AN INDISPENSABLE CONCEPT FOR BIOETHICS? Having disentangled some of the roots of the modern concept of human dignity, can we make a compelling case for the usefulness of this concept in present-day and future bioethics? Only a tentative answer to this question can be hazarded here. There is a strong temptation to say no, for the following reason. The fundamental question we have alluded to several times in this paper—the question of the specific ∗ For responses to Macklin’s critique of “dignity” see the essays by Daniel P.

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