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Suffering and Bioethics$
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Ronald M. Green and Nathan J. Palpant

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199926176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.001.0001

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Human Rights and the Moral Obligation to Alleviate Suffering

Human Rights and the Moral Obligation to Alleviate Suffering

(p.182) 9 Human Rights and the Moral Obligation to Alleviate Suffering
Suffering and Bioethics

Roberto Andorno

Cristiana Baffone

Oxford University Press

The overall argument of this chapter is that human rights norms are primarily focused on preventing the worst forms of human suffering, even if they only concern a small portion of the population. This task has moral priority over the promotion of the maximum well-being of the majority of people. Starting from the assumption that there is a moral duty to prevent suffering, this chapter first argues that the entire human rights enterprise can be regarded as a social response to suffering; second, it claims that although suffering is not the foundation of human rights, it is a factor that crucially contributes to their recognition and effective protection; finally, it analyzes how three concrete forms of extreme human suffering are addressed by human rights instruments: torture, starvation, and terminal illness.

Keywords:   suffering, international law, human rights, torture, starvation, terminal illness

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