Distinguishing between Bio-Ethics and Bio-law

Document Type : Original Article


1 Professor of Law, Shahid Beheshti University

2 Bio Law and Ethics Department, Nanobiotechnology Research Centre, Avicenna Research Institute- ACECR, Tehran, Iran.


Bioethics is an interdisciplinary approach that deals with ethical issues arising from the application of life sciences and technologies in human and non-human life. However, we often come across analyses and arguments of another nature, in the literature of this discipline. Although law and morality both are situated in the normative disciplines, they examine issues from different angles. Scholars of this field often, confusing “the moral” and “the legal”, use concepts such as moral rights. It could be shown that such kind of conceptual confusion leads to inconsistency in normative discussions on biosciences and technologies. A study of bio law and bioethics, while trying to delimit their boundaries, based on distinguishing features of each field, could prevent those conceptual confusions. In this research, we aim to examine differences between law and ethics, based on discussing four lines of “aim”, “scope”, “rule generation” and “sanction” and bringing in examples of bioethics problems. We then refer to a third kind of normative knowledge, which, has wrongfully entered the scope of bioethics. Ignoring the distinction between law and morality, especially in the legislation and adjudication processes, would amount to a breach of impartiality and inclination of law towards a particular moral outlook. Consequently, instead of bringing about a context for the coexistence of various ethical viewpoints, politics put pressure on those who believe in a different moral view. A system, in which certain ethical outlooks are accommodated while certain others are not, is undoubtedly far away from justice.