Commentary on Tsuchiya

- Masahiro Morioka
CIAS, Osaka Prefecture University,
Gakuencho, Sakai, Osaka, 599-8531 Japan
International Network for Life Studies

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 10 (2000), 180-181.
Takashi Tsuchiya concluded that Japan's highly hierarchical, closed-door medical system was one of the main causes of the massacre by human experimentation in China. And he went on to say that the so-called authoritarian character of Japanese and East-Asian ethics supported their hierarchical system, therefore, East Asian ethics in the Japanese killed lots of innocent Chinese by vivisection and experimentation.

Tsuchiya succeeded in pointing out the most delicate taboo in Japanese bioethics. Western bioethics got started by the reflection of Nazi's human experimentation. If so, Japanese bioethics should have also started by the reflection of Japanese army Unit 731's human experimentation, however, Japanese bioethics has ignored this topic from the beginning. Moreover, the former chairman of Japanese Association for Bioethics has advocated "East Asian bioethics" without saying anything about Japan's past immoral medical experimentation in China, though it was discussed by a Chinese colleague at the First East Asian Bioethics Congress in Beijing in 1995. Tsuchiya says that he entirely disagrees with Japanese proponents of "the East-Asian Bioethics" who have never mentioned the past conduct of the Japanese medical profession. I agree with him and believe that Japanese bioethics researchers must reflect and discuss our past massacre to create real moral philosophy. And after that we will for the first time be entitled to reevaluate Asian moral traditions.

By the way, we saw a discrepancy between professors born in the period of World War II, and researchers of younger generation who do not know the traces of the war. The professors seem to like authoritarianism and East Asian values, but younger people prefer individualism. Hence, it is very interesting to see that there is no "harmony" among Japanese bioethics community although "harmony" is one of the highest values of East Asian ethics. Tsuchiya and I belong to the latter group that criticizes and combats against the East Asian bioethics professors.

Of course, reconsidering Western way of thinking is a very important task for bioethics researchers. But simple rejection of Western individualism and human rights approaches will misguide us to another Unit 731. I am afraid not only Japanese professors, but some researchers from Asian countries may sympathize anti-West bioethics and kill growing individualism inside their professional communities. As Tsuchiya pointed out, even today many young medical students and researchers say nothing against their boss in the Japanese medical department. They may loose job if they criticize their professor's theories. Young doctors automatically try to hide medical malpractice when the boss asks them to do so. This kind of authoritarianism and harmony should be demolished. This must be the first goal of Japanese bioethics.

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