Darryl R. J. Macer.
Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305, JAPAN
The Tsukuba Bioethics Roundtable, 12-18 November, 1993, was a meeting hosted by myself, the Eubios Ethics Institute, with support from research funds of Prof. Hiroshi Harada of the University of Tsukuba. Among the participants were: Dr Paul Billings (USA), Dr Vijay Kaushik (Russia), Dr. Frank Leavitt (Israel), Dr Masahiro Morioka (Japan), Dr Roxanne Mytikiuk (Canada), Dr Robyn Nishimi (USA), Prof. Shinryo N. Shinagawa (Japan), Dr Yasuko Shirai (Japan), Prof. Kunihiko Shoji (Japan), Prof. Knut Erik Tranoy, Mrs Eva Tranoy (Norway), Prof. Daniel Wikler (USA), Dr. Michael Yesley (USA), and Shiro Akiyama, Yukiko Asada, Yuko Kato, and Miho Tsuzuki of the University of Tsukuba. We were joined by the chairpersons of the University of Tsukuba Medical Ethics Committee, the Gene Therapy Subcommittee, and the Animal Research Ethics Committee.
Together we had an informal and lively discussion of some issues in international bioethics, looking at cross-cultural issues. The conclusion of the roundtable was enlightenment of some complexities of bioethics, and it was difficult to reach major conclusions in the short time we had for discussion, but we all learned many things and developed some friendships. The discussions were in useful when preparing a draft conference statement for the Fukui Seminar, the final copy of that draft is included at the end of this preface. One conclusion we all shared is the need to develop cross-cultural bioethics, but we need more thought before looking at how much of bioethics can be universal.
The first three papers in this section are from USA (Yesley, Wikler, Billings); followed by papers from Norway (Tranoy); Israel (Leavitt); Europe (Byk) and a developing countries perspective (Kaushik). In this section there is also paper from Judge Christian Byk (France), a former advisor on bioethics to the Council of Europe, who was unable to come to Japan at that time for health reasons. Following these mainly medical ethics papers, there is a paper introducing some of the basic issues involved in scientific issues, based on workshops in New Zealand. Following this are three papers by Prof. Jayapaul Azariah from India on environmental ethics. These papers are particularly interesting for the subject of universal and cross-cultural ethics, and return to the theme of global bioethics, which must be based on the common hope of all.
These accounts of bioethics and medical care in different countries of the world, the United States, France, India, Israel and Norway, make us look at similarities and differences. Do individual people and families in each country make decisions differently? If people are the same then the same standards of bioethics can be applied - universal bioethics. We need to build a bioethics which includes the views of all people's of the world. We need to add Asian and African perspectives to the debate. We must remember that the debate about many issues has a long history, and often happened in different places. Whatever, our approach we should desire understanding of local cultures, and want to recognise the contribution of different peoples to bioethics. In fact we cannot really develop a complete bioethics without including this contribution. In the words of old prophet, "Listen, those of you that have ears to hear". This is cross-cultural international bioethics.
1. Bioethics should be viewed as an interdisciplinary field, not limited to any academic speciality, and including debate among all people, i.e. not only academics.
2. International cross-cultural bioethics should be developed, including studies and discussions, which respect individual cultures as long as they do not conflict with fundamental human rights, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
3. The methodology of bioethics should aim for cross-cultural understanding. Such understanding is necessary to develop international cross-cultural bioethics.
4. Harmonisation of some international laws, guidelines and policies to restrict bioethical "tourism" (e.g. resource-able persons buying organs from the poor; buying the products of genetic technology for enhancement purposes; or using only the poor for medical experiments) is important. The human body (DNA, genes, cells, tissues or organs) should not be exploited as a source of profit.
5. Research on the thinking and reasoning of ordinary people should be more emphasised in order to understand the diversity of people's thinking. This is necessary for determining the degree of universality that is possible, and should be used to complement other research approaches in bioethics.
6. The life and medical sciences, especially human genome research and the application of genetic screening and gene therapy, present some important educational, ethical, legal and social issues which need to be considered at local, national and international levels.
7. Somatic cell gene therapy for treatment of disease is a useful medical therapy and should be used when needed and chosen by patients. However, germ-line gene therapy should not proceed until it is both technically safe, and a truly international public consensus has been sought. To achieve such a consensus first requires education which will take several decades in most parts of the world.
8. In order to achieve the above goals greater effort is required to educate all members of society about the scientific and clinical background, and the ethical principles and social and legal problems involved, in the life and medical sciences. This will enable the active collaboration of all individual members of society, many academic disciplines, and the international community.
The free duplication and circulation of this statement is encouraged. To stimulate international discussion, comments on this statement will be published in the Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics , send them to Dr. Darryl Macer, Editor, P.O. Box 125, Tsukuba Science City, Ibaraki 305, JAPAN.
To next chapter
To contents list
To book list
To Eubios Ethics Institute home page