June Mary Zekan Makdisi, The Protection of Embryonic Life in the European Council's Convention on Biomedicine, 7 Nat'l CATH. BIOETHICS Q. 31 (2007).
The European Council's "Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being With Regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine," also known as the "Oviedo Convention" or the "Convention on Biomedicine," was drafted to prevent misuses of biotechnology that would endanger human dignity As a treaty, it is the first international document on the subject that has the force of law. The Additional Protocol on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings, and the Additional Protocol on Transplantation of Organs and Tissues of Human Origin have also entered into force as treaties, in 2001 and 2006, respectively They are important because they were also drafted by the Council of Europe and expand on the provisions of the Convention on Biomedicine.
Article 12 condones genetic testing that seeks to identify carriers or Genetically susceptible subjects. Interestingly, Article 12 is the only provision that refers to the human being as a subject. The references to human beings elsewhere in the Convention establish an attitude of respectful dignity toward them, even as subjects of research experiments. Use of the word "subject" in Article 12 indicates an intent to include human embryos in the provisions of Article 12 without requiring that the embryos be regarded as human beings. The embryo is particularly vulnerable, since testing leads not to treatment, but to destruction.
While Article 12 implies approval of embryonic testing, the other Convention provisions reveal that few limitations apply to interventions on human embryos. When they are the subjects of research, embryos are granted undefined "adequate protection" (Article 18). Genomic...