pp. 408 in Bioethics in Asia

Editors: Norio Fujiki and Darryl R. J. Macer, Ph.D.
Eubios Ethics Institute

Copyright 2000, Eubios Ethics Institute All commercial rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with the author.

F18. Human Genetics and Bioethics in China

Hiraku Takebe.

Kyoto University, Japan

In 1995, the Law of the People's Republic of China on Maternal and Infant Health Care went into effect. The law had been criticized as enforcing eugenics by some scientists in Western countries. In 1998, China will host the 18th International Congress of Genetics, but the International Federation of Genetics suggested to relocate the venue because of the law. China agreed to have sessions to discuss the law and the related issues at the Congress, and the Congress will be held in China. Because of this issue, however, many geneticists who were invited to participate in the Congress have declined the invitation, according to the organizers.

In November, 1996, HUGO Ethics Committee asked Dr. Ren-Zong Qiu from Beijing to explain China's policy on Population and Dr. Qiu said that the law was needed to supplement the one-child policy, and had no intention of enforcing eugenic aspects. In Chinese language, "yousheng" which had been said to correspond "eugenics" means "healthy birth". Dr. Qiu admitted that bioethics in China has just started to be discussed and has not been considered seriously when drafting the law. The HUGO Ethics Committee, after very active discussions, agreed that further dialogue between China and other countires should be needed to have mutual understanding.

According to Dr. Nyanhu Sun (in Human Genome Research and Society, 1992), People's Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing, Down's syndrome children in China live one year or average, more than half dying within 4 weeks after birth. This is mainly due to lack of good medical care in rural areas, as Down's syndrome children are generally very weak and are vulnerable to infection. These unfortunate situation are not known to those who have been criticizing China for the law.

What advanced countires should do, I believe, is to help China to improve the medical and hygienic situation and encourage doctors and ordinary people to raise handicapped children with social and financial help by the central government. To do so, promote understanding of ethics related to human genetics should also be emphasized. It may take time and a lot of effort. But such advice and encouragement must be far better than blaming them or boycotting the Genetic Congress.

As one of Asian countries where we share culture, history and religion, Japan's role in this issue should be very important. I hope this meeting would be one of the steps toward promoting mutual understanding.

Please send comments to Email < asianbioethics@yahoo.co.nz >.

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