Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

20. Points of contact between Maimonides' Jewish Philosophy and Buddhism and implications for bioethics

Frank J. Leavitt
Medical Health Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel


One source of foundations for bioethics is ancient spiritual tradition. Spirituality and religion are often thought of as causing differences and conflict between people. But a careful examination of different religious Judaism is supposedly "Western" and Buddhism is supposedly "Eastern". But in truth both are Asian spiritual traditions. Although there are serious differences between them, an examination of a Buddhist text, The philosophical and medical writings reveals surprising similarities.

A major point in common is a certain inner calmness and faith which can be maintained while living activity in a chaotic world. This attitude teaches us not to take material success and failure too seriously. Encouraging this attitude may have positive bioethical effects. For example it may help scientific endeavours become more of a pure search for truth, rather than the race after material success and personal honour. This may further research ethics by nullifying temptations to dishonesty.

38. Nursing ethics and dialogues between philosophical and religious ethics

Frank J. Leavitt
Medical Health Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

Nurses sometimes face a conflict between their duty to give a patient the best care, and their loyalty to their employing physicians and institutions. When a nurse feels ethically obliged to complain about negligence or malpractice, there may also be a serious risk of loss of employment and income. This ethical problem may be approached from the stand point of religious authority. This paper describes my experience as a philosophical bioethicist in trying to achieve harmonious Asian-style dialogue with Israeli religious authorities on this specific issue

Conclusions will be drawn for cross-cultural West and East Asian Bioethics. In particular:

1. Is moral autonomy desirable and possible for employees in a hierarchical institution such as hospital?

2. Does the nurse-patient relationship require special inter-cultural understanding?

3. In societies where a large percentage but not all of the people accept dialogue between philosophical and religious bioethics?

It is essential to ethical medicine that physicians learn to listen to and to respect the views of nurses, who are so close physically and emotionally to patients, families and communities. This should be part of medical education from first year onward. For the same reason nurses need a major role in all bioethics allocations.

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