Bioethics, Culture and Pluralism in the Mediterranean

- Yaman Ors, M.D., D.Phil.,

Unit of Medical Ethics, Ankara Medical Faculty, Sihhiye, 06100, Ankara, TURKEY.

Eubios Ethics Institute Newsletter 4 (January, 1994) 3-4.

The Sicilian Institute of Bioethics, chaired by Prof. Salvatore Privitera, organised their second annual meeting at the end of October in Acireale near Catania, with nine participants from seven Mediterranean countries taking part: Egypt, Greece, Italy (2), Malta (2), Portugal (being historically and culturally considered as a Mediterranean country), Spain and Turkey. There were three physicians, one psychologist, one philosopher, three theologians, and a jurist. And in agreement with my observations in local, regional and international bioethics meetings, the personal approaches of the participants to the issues discussed were perhaps less varied than their sociocultural and professional background. Given the great differences among individuals, this might be seen as an instance of 'indivudal pluralism'.

The overall title or theme of this year's meeting was "Life: its meaning and sanctity - physical, cultural and religious problems". As might possibly be expected, there were presentations with a secularly ethical orientation as well as those devoted for the most part to religious considerations. All in all, the topics presented in some detail and discussed in length constituted a wide scope in accordance with various different uses of the term "bioethics", comprising, for instance, was "Human existence in the light of bioethics and biopolitics", or "Is man 'the measure of all things'?". (The term 'biopolitics', apparently much less known than Bioethics, has been coined by Dr A.V. Arvanitis, a woman biologist who is the founder and president of the Biopolitics International Organisation located in Athens).

The first year's topic was "The quality of life in the Mediterranean countries". In my view, the concept of "the quality of life", which is inseparably and dialectically related to the former, is generally not thought of as a topic in itself, or as a key word, if you like. It appears to be an unnamed bioethical subject matter, for it is quite frequently considered as a highly significant moral issue in bioethics under the "quality of life" heading. I think that it could be relevantly discussed in a conceptually systematic manner during next year's meeting, whatever the main title would be.

Two of the expected participants, a french lawyer and an Israeli philosopher, could not take part in the meeting. A wider participation is expected for future meetings. The discussants were of the opinion that the Mediterranean region has a unique place in the world's social geography because of its significant historical and cultural characteristics. The presentations are published, with summaries in Italian, in the Institute's periodical, Bioetica e Cultura. They could be of interest to non-Mediterranean bioethicists as well.

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