Is Asian Bioethics at Fault? Commentary on Tsuchiya, Morioka,; and Nie

- 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
Email: yeruham@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 11 (2001), 7-8.
The papers by Tsuchiya and Morioka appeared too late to be included in the reader which I prepared for my ethics course for MPH students autumn semester.; So I photocopied them and distributed them for reading after the course was close to finished.; But when at the end of the term I asked the students to rank the readings for importance and interest, it was agreed that these deserved first place.; So in spring semester, I'll start three different ethics courses with these papers, together with the new one by Jing-Bao Nie, to be followed by a detailed analysis of the new (2000) version of the Helsinki Declaration , as an attempt to make research on human subjects ethical.

My only comment is that although Jing-Bao realizes that the problem is not uniquely East Asian, refers to the equally horrid experiments performed by Nazi Germany (a Western country, in case no-one has noticed), mentions the evil urges which seem to exist universally among human beings, and discusses positive aspects of Asian philosophy,; Morioka and Tsuchiya are in my opinion too self-flagellating , ie too harsh on their own people, the Japanese in particular and Asians in general.

As a little history, the East Asian Bioethics Association was founded at the conference in Beijing in 1995.; Board membership was restricted to East Asians, but members from any country could join. The intention was to make it broad to cover all of Asia, consistent with EJAIB, newly expanded in 1995 and which would become the official journal. In 1997 at the Asian Bioethics Conference we replaced the East Asian group with the more inclusive Asian Bioethics Association (ABA).; The new title is a little unfortunate for the anti-paternalists because "Aba" means father in Hebrew. But the inclusiveness was an important step.; The focus of EJAIB is global, and in particular all of Asia, from Japan in the East to Israel and Turkey in the West, and the association's purpose as I understand it, is to provide a platform and medium of multilogue among all the bioethics which have developed in this vast geographical area.;

I suppose this includes the attitudes of the Japanese doctors discussed in the articles in question. But it also includes the harsh criticism of these attitudes.; It includes the Tao, Zen, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity (which began in West Asia), and Marxism, which not only has influenced vast numbers of Asians, but whose founder, Marx, obviously incorporated ideas from his West Asian Jewish ancestors, as can be seen by comparing his idea of the future state of pure perfection with the Jewish idea of the Age of the Moshiah (Messiah).; The Asian Bioethics movement also includes people from countries which are officially at war with one another: an opportunity for human contact among individuals, and hope for love and peace.

Japanese ideas towards war and militarism have also changed.; I am not ignorant of the fact that negative elements still exist in Japan, as they do in every society.; But with respect to Japan, as with respect to most things in life, I like to look at the cup as half-full rather than half-empty.; There is an extremely strong anti-war movement in Japanese culture (see Shinagawa, TRT6).; I highly recommend reading the Japanese adult-comic book:; "Barefoot Gen", which is available in English translation, for a taste of the Japanese revulsion to war.; The story takes place before, during and after the American atomic bombing of two large cities with mostly civilian populations (lest anyone still think that only East Asians are capable of atrocities.); Japan is also a world leader in achieving political and economic ends by peaceful means.; Obviously one cannot ignore environmental and social problems associated with Japanese fishing and logging, for example.; But a balanced view will emphasize the good no less than the bad.

Japanese martial arts - for some, the arch-example of militarism - are also undergoing; a transformation; for peace, with ancient spiritual and non-violent aspects being developed, as is discussed; in this issue's Mystical Bioethics Network column.


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