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Discussion on Bioethics and Asian Cultures

Kang: The first speaker in the session on Bioethics and Asian Cultures is Dr. Jayapaul Azariah, the President of the All India Bioethics Association. Are there any questions?

Dua: It was a very good talk. Could you tell me what is the importance of planting a tree in that area and what are the environmental values associated with it?

Azariah: Yes, I compared the tree to a bioethical community. We should do some planting of trees now. It takes time for trees to grow; but if we plant now, the trees can blossom into a beautiful forest. Let's plants seeds of bioethics.

Gupta: Professor Azariah, when you are talking about the ideal future development of human societies all around the world, what kind of value systems do you think we should nurture in the future? Because today we see a tremendous assault on our values, which conserve the environment, which conserve pluralism. How do you think we can counter this, which can reduce moral diversity?

Azariah: I think if you want to conserve many things, we should power down our civilization. We should not destroy all our resources. In that case, we should give priority, what we need most. If we know our priorities, we will survive. Otherwise, it will become one pushing against the other; trying to maintain him or herself in the competition.

Kang: Thank you. Our next speaker is Frank Leavitt, who asked many questions yesterday. Are there any questions?

Ng: I heard this story about a yoga master who at the point of death supposedly said that if he were to live once more, he wouldn't practice yoga because it was very difficult for him to die. Yoga is supposed to be good for living; but I wonder about the effects of yoga on dying?

Leavitt: First of all, I don't know a very good deal about yoga. I wished my wife were here since she's been practicing yoga for 30 years. There is a very big man in yoga by the name of Yengar in Pune, the city of Dr. Sharma. He writes many books about this sort of thing. He feels that promoting yoga among poor people would be better in improving well being compared to medicine. If there's an answer to your question, it should be in one of Yengar's books.

Doering: What is the Asian part of Asian Bioethics? We Germans are notorious in having difficulty in locating Asia on the map. For instance, according to the foreign ministry of my country, I'm the only non-Asian here. The people from Australia belong to Asia according to some people, otherwise, we definitely don't feel we belong to that. Sometimes we feel we do not belong to the West either. I think that what you want to say is that you don't need a particular Asian bioethics, although I don't know what that could mean, but you mean good and ethical bioethics made from Asian minds and hearts. Rather let us consider human beings in Asia. I think that this is a different thing, and then you won't have the problem of allocating Asia on the map. If I use geographical location, the intra-Asian diversity is just as large or even larger than the East-West diversity in terms of differences. For instance, Confucian and Taoist medical associations can be integrated, but still they are very diverse in many practices. In Germany, we find a very keen interest in traditional Chinese medicine on a level you can't find in China. So they exported that to Germany . So it's really confusing. I think it's more important to identify the culture, if we look at the context and the people involved. And not so much look at the geography; it doesn't help us at all. Just to remind you of one thing, there is Traditional European medicine that is holistic and individual based; so this is not just in Asia. So I don't think it makes much sense, in order to support the main point of your talk, to use Asia as an arbitrary term. People to be moral on bioethical issues, to focus on Asia as some obvious political thing. So what is Asia? Why the need for this arbitrary term?

Leavitt: I recognize pluralism. Secondly, debating about geography of Asia I think I should wait until Prof. Sakamoto can come and discuss, because I always argue about that. He says that Israel is not in Asia. Then I say that Japan is not in Asia because when we go from Israel to the East, everything is so similar ;but when you go to Japan, it's a totally different place. We always debate about that. All I'm trying to say is that among the traditions which are called Asian, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Tao and so on and so forth, there are many valuable things which are not specifically taken into account in bioethics; and that we as the Asian Bioethics Association should address this point.

Kang: The next talk is by Dr. R.N. Sharma. It was an interesting topic. There is no time for questions, so the next speaker is Dr. Kenji Hattori.

Kang: There is time for one question.

Su: In our Eastern culture it is some times difficult to separate individual autonomy from family autonomy. The family may think it is best not to let the patient know they have cancer, and the patient may think it is best not to let the family know that they have cancer. So how can we improve the situation?

Kang: Sorry we will have to take that as a comment because of shortage of time. Thank you. The last talk of this session is by Yu Kam Por. I am sorry there is no time for questions. Thank you to the speakers.

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Eubios Ethics Institute | Book List | TOP - Asian Bioethics in the 21st Century