- Frank J. Leavitt, Director
Centre for Asian & International Bioethics
Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev,
Beer Sheva, ISRAEL (Home Tel/FAX: +972-2-9963048)
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 8 (1998), 15.
The Centre will be a part of a network of similar Asian and International bioethics centres, starting with the Eubios Ethics Institute in Tsukuba, and one being developed in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Darryl, Jayapaul and I have been traveling around Asia hoping to encourage a network of many such Centres, for cross-cultural bioethical communication on the deepest levels.
In my personal opinion both secular philosophy and established religion have been fruitful guides in bioethics. But they are insufficient and do not give clear answers to many bioethical questions. New directions must be sought. The one I want to encourage is Asian spiritual bioethics, deep communication among experts and students in Israeli Kabala, esoteric Shinto, Sufi, Hinduism, etc. Listening to one another with open minds and together seeking solutions to ethical questions in genetic engineering, medicine, nursing, cloning, environmental health and the many other bioethical questions with which the future will surprise us.
I hope that the Centre will be a focus for this communication, and also, and at least as importantly, help encourage ethical medicine, nursing and environmental policy in third world, developing countries. One way we can help is to try to encourage a strong ethical and spiritual content in medical and academic nursing programmes. As medicine becomes more scientific and technological, the bioethically trained nurse will have a greater role in ensuring ethical treatment. We also have to address the ethical problems specific to medicine in third world countries. A decision whether to try to save a newborn baby with severe anomalies - to give just one example - where you have a fully equipped advanced neonate intensive care unit, is a very different decision from where you may not have more than the simplest incubator facilities. And we must address the questions of rights of indigenous cultures and exploitation of tribespeople for medical research. We can learn from each other perhaps especially in traditional and spiritual approaches to health.
With respect to the environment we shall have to work to find ways to deal with the increasing power of multinational corporations who seem to be buying up natural resources everywhere. I doubt that we can fight these corporations but maybe we can help them be more bioethical.
I dont want the Centre to be purely academic or a virtual bioethics Centre as the www site of Eubios Ethics Institute, or the on-line Internet forum of ABA. I want a rural location with a kibutz-like community of people from all over Asia and elsewhere living, eating, discussing and working together, even working the soil and growing our own organic food. The idea of working for ones keep can help make it affordable for students from many countries. People can be members (the word in Hebrew is haverim = friends) for a few days, weeks, months or years, but retaining individual independence unlike traditional kibutzim. This can be a focus for our other goals. One is deep international discussions of spiritual and other bases for bioethics. And the other is helping ethical medicine, nursing and environmentalism in the third world.
We can give in-service training in bioethics to school teachers as we have already done experimentally in Israel. This can develop into a University branch campus - but a quiet and natural one - where scholars can pursue degree programmes and others of all sorts studying bioethics.
A major project will be to apply international expertise to encourage ethical community in environmental health in third world poverty areas. We want to bring third world nurses and doctors for courses at the rural Centre in Israel, as well as going out ourselves to teach on site , probably starting with hospitals where we have already begun contact in Tamil Nadu, India.
But we do not intend to teach third world nurses and physicians paternalistically. With their vast experience they can probably teach us as many things as we can teach them. So the courses will be joint learning experiences for all of us.
Of course all this will take money. We have no funds at all yet and getting all we need may require a miracle. But its a miracle that bios exists at all, when you think of the tiny statistical chances that life should occur in a universe of physical particles. Indeed it was a miracle that the state of Israel was founded just as the prophets predicted in the Bible. So it shouldnt be too much to hope for a miracle to help move bioethics forward.