The ‘Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine or Biomedicine Convention - henceforth in this chapter “the Convention” - was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 19 November 1996 and opened for signature in Oviedo (Spain) on 4 April 1997. After the fifth ratification, that of Spain, the Convention entered into force on 1 December 1999 in the countries that are a Party to the Convention after having ratified it.
The title of the Convention may be misleading as to its objectives. Terms like biology and biomedicine imply genetics, cloning, (xeno) transplantation, reproductive medicine, medical research and other high-tech biomedical achievements and developments. And the Convention indeed contains dispositions regarding the human genome, scientific research, and organ and tissue removal. In this respect, the concern of the Convention is that the individual “has to be shielded from any threat resulting from the improper use of scientific developments”. However, this is not the Convention’s only concern. It is further intended that the Convention as a whole “will provide a common framework for the protection of human rights and dignity in both longstanding and developing areas concerning the application of biology and medicine”. In this respect the Convention may be considered as offering ‘protection’ of the rights of the patient in ordinary healthcare wherever it formally applies.
The Convention claims to cover “all medical and biological applications concerning human beings, including preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic and research applications”. For that reason the Convention is really a “patient rights treaty”.