The principle of respect for human dignity plays a crucial role in the emerging global norms relating to bioethics, in particular in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. This instrument, which is a legal, not merely an ethical document, can be regarded as an extension of international human rights law into the field of biomedicine. Although the Declaration does not explicitly define human dignity, it would be a mistake to see the emphasis put on this notion as a mere rhetorical strategy. Rather, the appeal to dignity reflects a real concern about the need to promote respect both for the intrinsic worth of human beings and for the integrity of the human species. But dignity alone cannot solve most of the dilemmas posed by biomedical practice. This is why international biolaw combines, on the one hand, the appeal to human dignity as an overarching principle with, on the other hand, the recourse to human rights, which provide an effective and practical way forward for dealing with bioethical issues at a global level.