Introduction: Papers from the ASEAN-EU LEMLIFE Project

- Soraj Hongladarom
ASEAN Co-ordinator, ASEAN-EU LEMLIFE Project
Email: hsoraj@chula.ac.th

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 14 (2004), 193-194.


The ASEAN-EU LEMLIFE (AEL) Project is a collaborative project consisting of eight participating universities who share the common objectives of promoting bioethical understanding, producing original research works and teaching material on bioethics. 'LEMLIFE' is an acronym for 'legal, ethical and management aspects of the life sciences'. The project is funded by the European Union, under the ASEAN-EU University Network Programme (AUNP). The AUNP is an initiative by the European Union and the ASEAN University Network aiming at enhancing co-operation between higher education institutions in the two regions, to promote regional integration within ASEAN countries, and at strengthening the mutual awareness of European and Asian cultural perspectives.
The participating universities in the AEL Project are: Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), University of the Philippines, Diliman, Vietnam National University, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Lueneburg University/European Academy of Economy and Environment (Germany), Lancaster University (Britain), Friedrich-Schiller University Jena (Germany) and the University of the Basque Country (Spain). Individual participants are: Soraj Hongladarom, Somparn Promta, Siriyupa Roongrerngsuke, Sarote Pornprabha, Leonardo de Castro, Le Dinh Luong, Chan Chee Khoon, Ruth Chadwick, Minakshi Bhardwaj, Nikolaus Knoepffler, Juergen Simon, Brigitte Jansen, and Carlos-Romeo Casabona. The Project is co-ordinated by Chulalongkorn University, and Dr. Soraj Hongladarom acts as the ASEAN co-ordinator, while Prof. Juergen Simon is the EU co-ordinator.
On January 24-26, 2004, the Project held its first workshop at Chulalongkorn University, where all the participants actually met for the first time. A number of original papers were presented and some of them are published here. The seven papers included in this issue are highly diverse, ranging from a study of ancient Buddhist texts in order to find out what the Buddhist perspectives are regarding some salient bioethical issues, to a philosophical analysis of the concept of 'opting-out' in organ donation for transplantation, and on global institutionalization of governance in biotechnology.
There are two Asian contributions in this group of papers: "Asian Bioethics Revisied" by Soraj Hongladarom, and "Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A View from Theravada Buddhist Morality" by Somparn Promta. Both are philosophers from Chulalongkorn University. The first paper discusses the controversial issue of the existence of Asian Bioethics and argues that the question whether there is such a thing is a complex one and that one needs to look at different levels of conceptualization in order to find out where the real answers should be found. The second paper is a proposal for some normative views on cloning and stem cell research based on a close reading of the Buddhist texts.
The other contributions are from the European side of the Project. "Organ Donation as an Ethical Imperative" by Nikolaus Knoepffler argues that countries should adopt the 'opting out' scheme of organ donation, whereby individuals who do not expressly declare their intention not to participate in organ donation program should be taken to state implicitly that they are willing to have their organs harvested when they are declared brain dead. "The German Stem Cell Law: Contents and Criticism" by Brigitte Jansen and Juergen Simon provides some details of the law together with their criticisms. "Access and benefit sharing in population based research: Indirect Benefit Sharing as a Model of Regulation" by Juergen Simon and Cristina Blohm-Seewald. They argue for a regulatory model which regards populations all over the world as equal market participants, respects the right of self-determination, recognises the right to full and effective participation, and guarantees the property rights of the different populations. For them the model could be an important contribution to conflict solution in the context of access and benefit sharing for research in population based research.
Another paper, "Global Institutionalization of Governance of Biotechnology and Universality of Ethical Principles" by Minakshi Bhardwaj details some of the governance systems regarding biotechnology and its products, and argues that regulating these issues is always bound to be a 'balancing act' between various ethical values, political and economic interests. Lastly, in "Intellectual Property Rights and the controversy between Developed and Developing Countries: Is It Ethical to Take Care for Animals' Suffering but to Forget the Needs of Humans for Survival?" Carlos-Romeo Casabona deals with the difficult issues of patenting biological material and the contrasting cultural and geographical climates between developed and developing countries.
I would like to thank Darryl Macer for his kind help in publishing this special issue. Papers in this special issue section have been made possible in part by the AUNP Project, which is a collaborative program between universities in the ASEAN and EU regions and funded by the European Union.

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