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International perspectives on biomedical ethics.

International Perspectives on Biomedical Ethics

One of the favorite old saws of philosophers is the theme of universals and particulars. "Universal forms," say "whiteness" or "catness," in one way or another are involved with particular worldly entities, giving them their definitiveness or character. In turn, the particulars may dilute, muddle, or subtly transform the universals themselves, as concretely realized. This esoteric Platonic and Hegelian theme seems curiously at work in the real world and can be sen in this second international supplement of the Hastings Center Report.

Here the universals are modern science and medical technology. Life-sustaining treatments, organs transplantation, genetic screening, and IVF procedures are found in many places throughout the world. The particulars in the drama are the multiplicity of cultural traditions, both within and between countries. Biomedical ethics, with its various and varying issues and dilemmas--for example, termination of treatment decisions, the definition of death, abortion, and reproductive rights--is the outcome of this contemporary interplay of universal science and medicine and particular cultural traditions.

Thus, on one extreme, we have Solomon R. Benatar and Omar Franca agonizing over modern physicians' moral obligations, as physicians, when confronted by systematic, politically motivated torture in South Africa and Uruguay. On the older hand, Knut Erik Tranoy is exercised by achieving some sort of ethical consensus over reproductive issues, among others, in the face of the cultural pluralism of Scandinavia. In Greece, Colombia, and Uruguay, Souzy Dracopoulou and Spiros Doxiadis, Alfonso Llano-Escobar, and Franca find markedly different attitudes toward death and dying among both patients and health providers. These attitudes are importantly shaped by the impact of modern medical technologies and practices on everyday life and local cultural traditions.

Finally, we find differing cultural responses in Japan, Nigeria, Scotland, and Portugal to the case of a possible "TAR" baby. To reproduce or not to reproduce, to screen genetically or not to screen, to abort or not to abort? The ethical answers to these questions seem significantly determined by where the questions are asked. In the bioethical realm at least, the universals and the particulars appear mutually to transform one another.
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Author:Donnelley, Strachan
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Date:Aug 1, 1988
Words:349
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