Editorial - EJAIB and Asia

- Darryl Macer
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 7 (1997), 97-98.


This issue is significant for the adoption of EJAIB as the official journal of the East Asian Association of Bioethics (EAAB), which is the beginning of a probable Asian Bioethics Association. The establishment of EJAIB (see the aims at the back of every issue) was to stimulate bioethics in Asia, and draw together an editorial board from around Asia as a foundation for this goal. This was intended to build upon the Eubios network, with a refocus as a forum for interchange in the international fora to encourage Asian writers to share their experience.

Some people still question the title "Asian and International Bioethics", however the International was included to stress that EJAIB is not an insular journal, and that international exchange of views that had been developed in the Newsletter prior to the journal establishment would not be lost. The focus was more on writers that did not appear in the traditional bioethics journals which impose standards of language and writing style often suited to natives of their own country, rather than to an international group where English may not be the first or second language.

In addition EJAIB continued to focus on genetics issues, being a forum for the International Association of Bioethics Genetics Network, and the network of colleagues who work on ethical, social and legal impact (ELSI) issues of genetic technology. The function to spread bioethics debate into science was also made more formal with the establishment of MURS Japan, which joined EJAIB at the beginning. The UNESCO Asian Bioethics Conference (ABC) in November in Kobe, Japan will be the next meeting of MURS Japan, and Eubios is proud to have published the proceedings in 1992, 1993, 1996, of MURS Japan meetings. The next meeting of MURS Japan will be the Kobe meeting, and Eubios will also publish the proceedings of that meeting (see p. 100-102).

The column EAAB News introduced this issue will continue each time, and we hope that more members contribute papers. Already there are about 90 members of the EAAB, and the President, Hyakudai Sakamoto, and/or Vice President Renzong Qiu, will be contributing a column in each subsequent issue. Already EJAIB has published the abstracts of the first EAAB meeting held in Beijing, China in November 1995, and the second meeting will be held together in Kobe this year in the ABC. In fact more than half of the papers in this journal are from members of the EAAB. Please note an Internet site for EAAB is on-line at Eubios Ethics Institute.

In the column, Prof. Sakamoto invites more members, and especially draws attention to the upcoming ABC. Members of the EAAB who have not already secured financial support or an invitation from Prof. Norio Fujiki, the secretary-general of the ABC, can apply for special financial aid, for some or all of the costs, - BY THE 6 AUGUST. Please see the forms in the journal, and return immediately with an abstract to the abstract office of ABC which is myself in Tsukuba, if you intend to come. While we will interpret the deadline with some flexibility, time is pressing on. Unfortunately these are NOT OPEN TO PEOPLE LIVING IN JAPAN.

The draft lecture list is included in this issue of EJAIB with the intention of guiding those who wish to come to learn of what is happening in bioethics in Asia. We can promise a stimulating time for all. Also in this issue is the draft lecture list of the Third International Tsukuba Bioethics Roundtable, which will be held in conjunction with the Japan Association of Bioethics Ninth Annual Meeting in Tsukuba, immediately prior to the ABC. We have planned this with the cooperation of Prof. Norio Fujiki, that persons coming to ABC can arrive in Narita (New Tokyo International Airport) on the 29 October to come to Tsukuba, then on the 2-3 November, move to Kobe and depart after Kobe from Osaka (Kansai International Airport). The Tsukuba roundtables are more informal meetings, allowing each participant active time for discussion and interaction. More details follow in the conference news section inside this issue. With these meetings happening, it is essential that people inform us of the travel plans, and that invitees work together with the ABC secretariat, Norio Fujiki, in scheduling plans.

On of the other activities that is involved in this broad enterprise is the Asian Bioethics Network project to Darryl Macer, Frank Leavitt and Jayapaul Azariah. Last October, together with a seminar organized by the other associate editor, Masahiro Morioka, we had meeting in Japan. This year these activities are in the context of the above conferences. A further colleague, Heng Leng Chee from Malaysia joins, together with R.R. Kishore, who has recently founded the Indian Society of Health Law and Ethics. We do not intend to be closed, and welcome those who wish to work constructively together on developing bioethics together with any organization or group which shares this view.

In June 1996 the three of us had meetings in Israel, together with Prof. Shinryo Shinagawa (Editor, Seminar of Health Ethics and the Community, in Japanese). We held seminars over a 11 day period everyday with Israeli and Palestinian persons, especially in the field of bioethics education, genetics, and cross-cultural bioethics. The principle meeting was a day long seminar, "Israel in Asian Bioethics" held at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, in which over 20 people gave presentations and about 50 people attended. There was some discussion of international issues, also some interesting presentations on Jewish bioethics. It is a challenge to get people in each country to broaden their horizons to issues outside of their tradition. Even if this is done there is still a difficulty to get a balanced view of another culture, because of the way the media reports events and extremities of culture.

In past years we have also written of the way that these bioethics exchanges may help the peace process, however, it appears most people outside of myself seem to be pessimistic (or realistic?) and think that it is almost impossible given the deterioration in inter-group relations between Israel and Palestine. People are even afraid to report contact and we can just say to readers that not all details are reported, but I found some encouragement from the informal meetings we had, and those who want to join in helping grass roots bioethics and education efforts should talk to us at one of the meetings.

In January 1997 the Chennai Statement on Bioethics emerged from the meetings in Madras, EJAIB 7 (1997), 34. It called for the foundation of an Indian Bioethics Association. In January 1998 we will have the next in a series of meetings in India, and while it promises a busy schedule, it will also be a further opportunity for the development of contact between Indians with each other (it is a huge country), and with those form outside. We are advertising early, but we invite those who want to join us to contact Prof. Jayapaul Azariah (Email: jazariah@unimad.ernet.in) at the University of Madras for details. The draft schedule is from 4-18 January, starting in Madras and Madurai (near the bottom of India looking from the North or close to the top if you look from the Southern hemisphere), and ending in Delhi. The details are subject to change by a day or too, and we can arrange internal travel which will be by domestic airlines and trains for foreign guests (to be refunded at the time of arrival).

The draft schedule of the 1997 Asian Bioethics Network Indian Program is:
4 arrive to Madras
5 Madras to Madurai to Virudunagar (20km south)
6 Virudunagar College
7 Madurai (Christian Fellowship Hosptial, Odddanchatram)
8 Salem Medical School, Salem
9 Salem
10 National Law School, Bangalore
11 Bangalore
12 fly to Pune, then to Ahmednagar
13 Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar
14 Ahmednagar
15 Ahmednagar
16 fly to Delhi
17 All India Inst. Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi
18 AIIMS, Delhi
19 (or 18th pm) depart

We are working together with local organizers, who continue to support the process, and have been very hospitable in the past. In the third week of May I visited Delhi and Goa for a conference convened by UNESCO and the National Academy of Sciences of India, the Bimal K. Bachhawat Symposium on Genome Research Emerging Ethical, legal, Social and Economic Issues (22-25 May). In Delhi we also held seminars with two of the colleagues met in January, 1997, who will be co-hosts of the 1998 Bioethics meeting, Drs. P. Dhar and KP. Kochkar of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. There was a broad range of subjects discussed, and it promises to be a stimulating time in January, 1998. One of the features of the meetings is that bioethics is a new word for many people, and the issue is how to see how older concepts can be linked together to develop a framework in bioethics. It is stimulating for all involved to learn, and one of the pleasures of working in cross-cultural bioethics, whether or not we believe there is universal bioethics.

I also visited Lisbon, Madrid, Rome and Holland in June, giving lectures and interchange in each of these cities, and some of the hosts will be coming to Japan for the ABC. In Rome one of the more challenging talks was to consider why bioethics was relevant to the FAO. To readers of EJAIB, the idea that bioethics includes agricultural and food issues is not new, it is part of the whole concept of life ethics, and environmental relationships. However, I realized that to many people this is not yet accepted. Words should not limit our concepts but enliven the concepts we hold so that ideas are more easily understood.

In the Netherlands the Conference was on Animal Consciousness and Ethics, and is related to the subject of the paper by Aksoy and response by Leavitt on the Value of Life. There is a need to support the ideal that we should respect all of life, but can we draw a hierarchy and if so, how does consciousness enter into it? These questions were explored in a mixture of theoretical and practical papers. After working out values that could relate to law, the process of introducing a law is strewn with difficulties, and the report from Canada shows how a call for elections can delay laws. In japan, this delayed the Brain Death Law for many years, and still it is to be ratified by the Upper House, and then the process of implementing it in practice. Another legal document is the UNESCO IBC Draft on the Human genome, and a critique is included in this issue.

There is also a paper on attitudes and concerns of school students, the Biocult survey, which makes us ask how early can ethics be taught, and how early does ethical decision making start to emerge. There was not space to reproduce the open comments here, or pictures, but they will be added to the list of resources and data that have been accumulated on descriptive ethics. We need to add interactive ethics to the process that leads to prescriptive bioethics, and this is accomplished by interchange. We look forward to more contacts between members of the networks and other readers, and the development of more cross-cultural research. Last but not least, please find the clinical case studies and commentaries, also open to readers to see how the theories relate to specific cases.
- Darryl Macer


Go back to EJAIB 7(4) July 1997
Go back to EJAIB
The Eubios Ethics Institute is on the world wide web of Internet:
http://eubios.info/index.html