Bioethics and its Limit

- Masahiro Morioka

International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 3-2 Oeyama-cho, Goryo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 610-11, JAPAN

Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 1 (1991), 84.


Bioethics has developed to be an academic discipline over the past 20 years. But some of its foundations are based on shallow understandings of human beings. For example, almost all of bioethical arguments lack anthropological and psychological points of view when they deal with the death of humans. When we consider the validity of organ transplants from brain dead persons, we should take account of the anthropological effects on the ritual systems of that region (country, state), and also we should investigate their psychological impacts on the family members and the community at both the conscious and unconscious levels.

Bioethics has rarely considered such factors. this implies that bioethics is actually a narrow-minded discipline. (With regard to organ transplantation, American psychologists at last seem to have begun to research on its impacts on the human psyche (1)).

Recently I have been investigating images and concepts of life among contemporary Japanese (2), and I believe that anthropological, psychological, and philosophical examinations on our own world-view concerning life and technology are required to make any ethical judgement, rather than judgements being based on simply the so-called "principles of bioethics". That is why I have advocated the comprehensive "study of life" instead of bioethics (3). Bioethics is not a rich paradigm which can offer us the right answer every time.

1. J. Shanteau & R.J. Harris, "Organ donation and transplantation", American Psychological Association, 1990.

2. Masahiro Morioka, "The concept of Inochi: a philosophical perspective on the study of life", Japan Review 2 (1991), 83-115.

3. Masahiro Morioka, Seimeigaku eno Shotai (An Invitation to the Study of Life), Keiso Shobo 1988 (in Japanese).


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