In Search of Solutions: Commentary on Barilan
- Jayapaul Azariah, Ph.D.
President, All India Association of Bioethics,
No. 4, 8th Lane, 5th Cross Street, Indira Nagar
Chennai 600 020, INDIA
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 12 (2002), 181.
Bioethics has crossed its thirty years of service to humanity. In the Western countries it has become "an established and independent discipline" and in some eastern countries it has not yet been born. It is good to distinguish three branches of bioethics, (I) traditional bioethics, (2) contemporary bioethics and (3) theoretical bioethics. In the article written by Barilan one can have a comprehensive idea on the development of three areas of modern science. They are bioethics, technology and medical ethics. The historical aspects of these areas are well traced and the importance of technology in a postmodern era and post genomic era has been well placed. To understand the main theme of the article one has to have some basic knowledge on three areas. Being a theoretical paper, it takes time to understand the wide ranging concepts presented in it. But a careful reading may lead a person to bioethical maturity. Taking into consideration on the wide range of readers of this journal, who are not medical ethicists and others who may not a technological mind, a provision of a glossary may have been very useful.
During these formative years the subject of bioethics has endeavored to carry the delicate act of balancing opposing views and changing attitudes and values. One such area is "the uses and abuses of medical technology". The balancing act has been carried out with the introduction of "Institutional Bioethics Committee or the Institutional Review Board". While traditional medical ethics dealt with the values and duties of physicians and with conflicts that arise among those values and duties, currently the emphasis has been placed personal autonomy and civil rights which are not medical issues. With the growth of medical technology, the dictum " greatest good to a greatest number of people" may have to undergo a radical change. Since "technolization of the medical life-world by the most powerful means at our hands, namely technology itself ' is in vogue individualized medical treatment is inevitable. In the future, with the availability of DNA Micro- array facility and "magic bullet" drugs, which are highly individualized how the earlier dictum of maximum good for maximum number of people will be considered "good", How do we understand the term "good". Philosophers do ask "what is good?' For those who do not believe in a "Rational Creator' what is good? For those who believe in a utilitarian algorithm-paradigm will they recognize "moral algorithms'? Since human beings have varied personal beliefs it is hard to arrive any consensus in these areas. A consensual platform is a necessary prerequisite for the development of global bioethics. It is interesting to note the change in the concepts of medical ethics with respect to the physician, whose professional excellence and personal charisma and decorum were his/her only qualifications for being a "Good Doctor'. And such a ideal Good Doctor "applied his skills to assist people in their somatic, existential and moral quest of getting closer to the ideal of the Good Human Being'. It is important to project changes, if any, in such idealism in the face of technolization of bioethics in medical ethics. In the near future when medical care is going to be individualized as per the genomic (genetic) need of a person what sort of changes will there be in our moral quest of getting closer to the ideal of the Good Human Being'! This aspect needs some theoretical projections. Such theoretical approach may break the barrier between "possible and the inevitable' on the one hand and on the other among possible, probable and preferable'. It will be good if medical ethics advances in the direction of preferable for the well being of the society.
Technology is not only shaping our present life but it is also constantly reshaping our life and the way we think. Hence we need to give more thought to theorize technology in bioethics.
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