Fixed Points in a Changing Age? The Council of Europe, Human Rights, and the Regulation of New Health Technologies

Rory O'Connell, Sjef Gevers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The key questions in this chapter are first, to what extent has the Council been involved with regulation of new health technologies (NHTs) and second, what is the nature of its interventions? In considering this, the chapter will focus on the theme of (human) rights, though also address ethical issues when we come to discuss dignity. Technological change may seem to threaten the status of human rights as fundamental standards—much less fixed points —in political democracies, with authors wondering how human rights can survive the challenge of rapidly evolving technology, or even how human rights might be meaningful in a ‘posthuman’ age. In addressing these questions, the chapter is structured as follows. Part B describes the system of multi-level regulation within the Council of Europe, identifying the relevant Council of Europe institutions, and texts. Part C considers the importance of flexibility and variability in the Council’s interventions relating to NHTs; a particular focus is the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the margin of appreciation doctrine. The theme of rights and especially autonomy- related rights (non-interference, privacy, etc) is the subject of Part D; equality rights and the right to health are also considered. Part E examines how the Council treats dignity. Part F revisits some of the governance related discussion of the earlier sections, highlighting the Council’s standards that encourage public discussion of these sensitive questions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Law and New Health Technologies
EditorsMark Flear, Anne-Maree Farrell, Tamara Hervey, Therese Murphy
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)0199659214
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2013


  • Human rights law
  • new health technologies
  • European court of human rights
  • Council of Europe


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