- Darryl Macer, Ph.D.
The summer in Japan was almost a record for heat and lack of rain. In August I was in Australia for a week and New Zealand for two, with a chance to have cooler temperatures to think. The life of people in hot and cold lands must have some differences that affect people's behaviour and outlook. As Masahiro Morioka writes below, a cold or the flu is also sometimes a good chance to think about life (if it is not too severe!).
In mid-July I attended the World Alliance of Muscular Dystrophy Associations conference in Kyoto, and survived in 40C heat alongside patients and families who would suffer much more than me. One of the sessions that I was speaking at was on establishing a system for funding genetic services in Japan, and some interesting comments were made. The Japanese Association which was primarily interested in this subject, and this part of the meeting was only in Japanese, is split over the use of prenatal genetic screening and some strong opinions against it were raised. In the end it is a choice people should be able to make, free of financial worries of the test itself. There is also a range of social services available for support of families with MD in different countries, and some Western European countries like Denmark were the envy of most Japanese.
A report on the US-Japan Bioethics Congress organised by Professors K. Hoshino, A. Deekins, Y. Taketomo, and some American associates, is below. It was a stimulating congress at times, and debated universal bioethics which can be tested in cross-cultural comparisons. In the end the conclusion was there is diversity in both cultures, and not really a single view. There were a number of well-known bioethicists in attendance, perhaps too many for a one time meeting as there was not enough chance for discussion with them all. It may be a turning point in Japanese bioethics that such diversity is being recognised.
However, broader international comparisons and exchanges are even more valuable, and this issue is being sent to the International Association of Bioethics Second Congress in Argentina, with the hope that international associations and committees will join together more. The space of this newsletter is open for more exchange, and from 1995, I plan to have 24 pages per issue, up from the 14 at present. While this may allow some size increase, it is more likely, and also desired, that more news and exchange can be developed. Network news is welcome, and encouraged.
We must wait until the comments are in from the draft Council of Europe Bioethics Convention, but it makes a basis for us to consider a more general agreement on minimum standards to enhance bioethical reasoning world-wide.
In the next issue of the newsletter is a proposal by Frank Leavitt further detailing the possibility of a Japan-Israeli Bioethics Centre exchange, as an Asian Bioethics Centre. This has potential to stimulate debate about bioethics in Asia, and we hope that some debate can occur in the pages of the newsletter. We welcome ideas about further collaboration, and exchange.