The IAB Executive Response to the letter to the IAB Board from the ABA Board (see EJAIB 12 (2002), 209-10.

To: Professor Renzong Qui, President ABA
From: Solomon R Benatar, President IAB
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 13 (2003), 2.


In response to your letter I should like to make several points.

The proposal made by Darryl Macer was fully discussed at the 2001 Board meeting and turned down for several good reasons. Despite having taken this decision democratically the Board willingly re-discussed the issue at its 2002 Board meeting.

The reasons for rejecting the proposal are as follows.

1. Representation, according to the IAB Constitution is by region and representation from all regions is ensured.

2. Regional representation is not determined by the population of any region or country.

3. Regional representation is also not determined by how many working bioethicists there are in any region and if this criterion were to be used the North American region would have most of the seats!

4. No single country is allocated a mandatory representative and it is not clear why only two countries (as suggested by you) should be accorded this privilege. Population alone is not a sufficient reason, just as the number of working bioethicists in any country is not. Indeed other considerations such as whether a country has a democratically elected government, upholds Universal Human Rights, has a caste system or otherwise, is wealthy or poor are also not given any priority.

5. With the current Constitutional provisions it would be possible for the electorate to vote in a Board constituted as follows: No Americans, one Canadian, two members from Europe, one from the Cook Islander (representing South East Asia, Australia and the Pacific),one East Asian, one member from the Indian sub-continent, one member from Latin America and the Carribean, one from North Africa and the Middle East, and one from Sub-Saharan Africa. The remaining 12 seats could be filled from any region and could indeed all be representatives of so-called developing countries. The fact that many people from all over the world, including many prominent western bioethicists, have stood unsuccessfully for election at various times is precisely what is expected in an organisation with an active democracy where the election is not 'stitched up' in advance.

6. Given the above ABA members could indeed elect many more Board members in the future without any need to change the IAB constitution.

7. It is not unreasonable to presume that in the past voters have not exercised their rights to nominate and vote for whomever they would like to see on the Board, and/or that the results of elections reflect the extent to which any nominee is known to voters from their reputation as a scholars or practioners of bioethics, and hence considered able to undertake both the scholarly and practical tasks required of Board members. I should also point out that the issue you raise in your letter was not raised by anyone at the IAB general assembly at either of the last two World Congreses despite the presence of many members from developing countries.

With regard to the ballot issue I must inform you that the list of Asian members of the IAB has now been sent to Darryl Macer. Regarding the error of omission on the ballot form (1999 elections and not 2001 as you have erroneously written) I am including below a copy of the letter that was sent to all members. May 4, 1999

Dear Member,

In spite of our checks and double checks we made a terrible mistake and we want to apologize to all those concerned. A candidate who did meet all the demands was left out. Enclosed you will find the new ballot paper and the description of this candidate. Please use this new ballot paper to vote. If you did send us your ballot paper already and want to change your vote, please indicate on the envelope bearing your signature that it is your second vote.

The words 'Please use this new ballot paper to vote' in the letter above were in italics in the original letter.

Please note also that the candidate, Sang Yong Song, got 8 first preference votes and 9,142 final votes, which brought him close to the board, but not close enough.

Your indication that you 'intend to closely monitor the IAB Board election procedure in 2003 and will make public any future failure of the IAB to send proper voting papers to all IAB members in Asia with time for reply' seems to imply that the previous procedural error was deliberate. This together with your somewhat aggressive open letter rather than a letter to me is less collegial than might be expected from colleagues - especially bioethicists!

In relation to the 7th World Congress we hope that the use of full names rather than acronyms will avoid any confusion. We look forward to your organisation playing an active role in that event, and indeed continuing to work constructively with the IAB on many fronts.

Although the issue you have raised has been discussed twice by the IAB Board it will be placed on the agenda of the next Board meeting in 2003. We consider this to be the proper place for continued deliberation and for any further action.

With best wishes from me and the IAB Board to you and all members of the ABA Board for 2003.

Yours sincerely

Solomon R Benatar
Ruth Macklin
Florencia Luna
Hans Ven Delden
Soren Holm
President, Executive and Past President
To: Professor Solomon Benatar, President IAB (International Association of Bioethics)

From: Professor Ren-Zong Qiu, President ABA (Asian Bioethics Association)

24 January, 2003

Dear Professor Benatar,

Thank you for your letter of 31 December, 2002 to explain to us your consideration. What my colleagues in the Board of Directors of ABA and myself are concerned about is that IAB would be hopefully become a really global organization to promote bioethics endeavours all over the world. There is some difference between the IAB Executive and ABA Board about how to achieve this goal. I hope that there will be opportunity to further exchange opinion on this issue at some time, and explore the possibility to strengthen mutual understanding and future collaboration.

Happy New Year of the Sheep.

Yours sincerely,
Ren-Zong Qiu
Professor of Bioethics, China
President, ABA
To: Professor Ren-Zong Qiu, President ABA (Asian Bioethics Association)

From: Professor Solomon Benatar, President IAB (International Association of Bioethics)

31 January, 2003

Dear Professor Ren-Zong Qui,

I, and other members of the IAB Board, also look forward to discussing with you the issues you have raised. The IAB, as you know, aims to promote bioethics globally. As much as we may have achieved there is always more that can be done and we shall continue to strive to work towards this goal. Whatever differences of opinion there may be we are fully committed to working in close liason with many much admired and respected colleagues all over the world.

With reciprocal warm good wishes for 2003

Sincerely

Solly Benatar
Professor of Medicine University of Cape Town

President International Association of Bioethics


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