Commentary on Hardy, Bourdon & Kutukdjian

- Yeruham Frank Leavitt, Ph.D.
Chairman, The Centre for Asian and International Bioethics
Faculty of Health Sciences
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
Fax: + 972-7-6477633
Email: yeruham@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 10 (2000), 157-8.
Bioethics is a new subject, and it is an interdisciplinary one. It is already trite and obvious to say that. The problem, however, is that it is not so easy to bring different disciplines together as one would hope. One way to solve the problem is to do it like it is done in some philosophy departments: simply ignore the other disciplines, discuss everything abstractly and don't worry about the harm which your theories might do to patients or to the environment because nobody except for other philosophers is going to listen to you anyway.

Another way to try to do it is to gather students and teachers from various disciplines into one classroom, as Florence Hardy has been doing in Cergy-Pontoise. I know how difficult this is from my own experience in trying to organize joint ethics instruction for medical and nursing students. In spite of the apparent closeness of these two disciplines, my success has been scant and sporadic. When it has been possible to organize the sessions at all, I have usually found that I had not one classroom, but two classes in one room. Florence seems to have had a similar problem.

Perhaps a more natural approach would be not to try to unite two disciplines in one classroom for the purpose of bioethics, but to teach bioethics courses for programmes that naturally attract students from different disciplines. One example is our Master's in Medical Management programme here in Beer Sheva, in which I teach an ethics elective. The students -- physicians, nurses, biologists and others -- are united, not because of bioethics but because they have another common goal: they want senior positions in the national health care system, a system which is undergoing profound change and modernization. And these changes in themselves demand bioethical discussion. For example, there is tremendous emphasis on cost-benefit accounting in Israeli healthcare today (just like in the NHS), and this naturally raises ethical questions of cost considerations versus the patients' needs. When ethical questions naturally arise from issues of common interest to the students, there is less need to try to sensitize the students to ethical questions. They come already sensitized, and sometimes with very strong opinions which they will hash out with their fellow students in class. Other master's programmes which attract students from a number of professions (we have a Master of Public Health programme starting in the autumn, for example) should provide natural opportunities for bioethicists to develop our subject interdisciplinarily.

Florence's comments on French-English differences are interesting in the context of EJAIB, which is devoted to cross-cultural understanding in Asia and internationally. It is hard enough to generate understanding between biologists and lawyers French and English. But we have set ourselves a bigger goal of understanding and love all over the world.

But in the light of Florence's comment that the French think of "everybody" (everybody whom one knows about) as "tout le monde" (the whole world), I cannot resist repeating Bertrand Russell"s remark about the French linguist who said that French is the most logical language because it is the only language in which the order of the words is the same as the order of one's thoughts.


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