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Theor Med Bioeth. 2018 Oct;39(5):375-388. doi: 10.1007/s11017-018-9460-1.

Birth with dignity from the Confucian perspective.

Li J1,2, Li Y3.

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School of Philosophy, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China.
Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, Zhuhai, 519087, China.
Institute of Philosophy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 100732, China.


The development of biotechnologies has broadly interfered with a number of life processes, including human birth. An important moral question arises from the application of such medical technologies to birth: do biotechnological advancements violate human dignity? Many valid arguments have been raised. Yet bioethicists are still far from reaching a consensus on how best to protect the dignity of human birth. Confucianism is an influential ethical theory in China and presents a distinctive understanding of human dignity. In this paper, we reconstruct the two Confucian concepts of dignity-namely, universal dignity and personal dignity. We then apply these concepts to human birth in the context of biotechnologies involving embryos and genetic enhancement. We conclude that the dual Confucian understanding of dignity contributes a valuable perspective to the question of whether biotechnologies related to human birth violate human dignity.


Bioethics; Birth with dignity; Confucianism; Dignity of embryos; Genetic enhancement; Personal dignity; Universal dignity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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