Human rights in biomedical field: Concern over the Oviedo Convention

CEC Executive Secretary Rev. Sören Lenz attended a public hearing on the Additional Protocol to the Ovideo Convention in Strasbourg.

The hearing held on 9 October addressed the theme “Protecting the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities with regard to involuntary measures in psychiatry” in the context of the report being prepared by (Netherlands, ALDE).

The event was organised by the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development and the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination during the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The Oviedo Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine was opened for signature in Oviedo on 4 April 1997 and entered into force on 1 December 1999.

At the hearing, the Oviedo Convention draft protocol, drawn up by the Bioethics Committee of the Council of Europe, was considered highly controversial.

Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called for the complete withdrawal of this protocol due to its discriminatory approach.

“The discussion about the draft protocol makes it clear that in medicine people are becoming increasingly aware that the whole person and his environment must be taken into consideration and not just the symptoms of a disease,” said Rev. Sören Lenz.

“If you speak of psychosocial problems instead of mental disorder, you integrate the environment and the circumstances. It is a systemic approach. At the same time the question is how illness is defined. There should be a holistic view of illness and healing.”

“In biblical stories of healing, the whole person and his relation to others and God is evident. Therefore, to address bioethics questions our churches can and must participate constructively in this debate,” added Rev. Lenz.

The rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly, Dutch politician Reina de Bruijn-Wezeman said the process requires a paradigm shift concerning mental health policies and practices.

This protocol was also criticised for being non-compatible with the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was signed by 172 states and the EU.

The Bioethics Committee, on the other hand, believes that the legal loopholes regarding rights and human dignity in the forced placement and medication of people with mental disorders in some Member States can be filled by this protocol.

The Council of Europe comprises of 47 member states and was founded in 1949. In addition to questions of understanding democracy and legal security, its main concern is human rights, their observance and implementation in the member states.

CEC is a member of the local conference of non-governmental organisations and has observer status in the bioethics, human rights and education policy committees. CEC’s participation in this area is facilitated by Rev. Sören Lenz, responsible for CEC’s work on bioethics, human rights and engagement with the EU institutions, based in Strasbourg.

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