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Spain: new problems, new books.

Spain: New Problems, New Books

In some countries "practical philosphy," that is, philosophical reflection about ethics and politics, is in fashion. Spain is one of them. Since adopting democracy in 1975, and joining the European Common Market in 1985, the ideological pluralism of the Spanish people has increased dramatically, in the process obliging them to find new grounds for consensus. Democracy, pluralism, and consensus are probably the outstanding features of the political and ethical reality of this country, and demand a refinement in intellectual reflection and fundamental change in the ethical conduct of Spanish society.

Pluralism and Consensus

As in other western countries with pluralist, democratic traditions, in Spain bioethical problems have increased in prominence in the last few years. And this helps us to understand why the literature is growing quickly. Some of these new publications are translations, from English, of basic texts. [1] Courses and lectures on bioethics in schools of medicine, medical centers, and hospitals are beginning to be established and require a basic bibliography. Translations from English fill this need in part. Other titles are books written by Spanish authors, many of them collections of papers presented in courses, seminars, and interdisciplinary workshops, [2] some the work of individual authors. [3] In all it is possible to identify the same basic purpose: to balance the different moral opinions proper to a pluralistic society with a certain universality and objectivity of moral principles. The most outstanding question in contemporary European philosophical ethics, perhaps, is how to avoid complete relativism and merely pragmatic consensus to achieve a rational consensus based on objective principles. In Spain this is generally taken to be the most important question in ethics, and the foundation of bioethics.

Bioethics and Biolaw

Apart from these fundamental concerns, Spanish society is trying to solve concrete problems. In Europe general public discussion of bioethical topics coincides with governmental study of law projects. In Spain, as in any other continental European country, strict juridic rationalism is the norm, requiring that moral conflicts always be solved by statutory law. While the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudential system tries to leave the solution of such problems in the hands of society and common law, continental Europeans think that all can be foreseen and formulated in statutory laws. Thus the great bioethical debates generally coincide with governmental discussion of specific law projects. Some Spanish authors, therefore, hold that the field should properly be designated not "bioethics" but "biolaw." [4]

During 1979 and 1980 the great topics of debate in Spain were the definition of death and the ethics of organ transplantation because in 1979 the parliament passed a law on these subjects. Between 1981 and 1984 general interest centered on the problems of distributive justice, culminating in the new health law of 1986 (Law 14, 25 April 1986). At the beginning of the decade the need for substantial changes in the health care system was widely recognized; how a new system should be structured, however, was open to political debate. Parties of the right proposed a mixed model of part public and part private services, while those of the center favored a socialized system like the French, with free selection of and direct payment to physicians by patients. Left wing parties preferred a generalized public system along the lines of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. With the advent of the socialist party government in 1984, the decision was taken in favor of this last option and this issue faded from public debate. [5] By early 1987 primary attention had turned to the new reproductive technologies.

Ethics of the New Reproductive


Interest in the ethicial problems raised by in vitro (fertilization and artificial insemination has been stimulated by two recent events. First, the publication of the Vatican instruction Donum Vitae about respect for nascent human life and the dignity of procreation and second, the introduction of two new laws by the socialist government. [6] These documents have prompted debate because they reach entirely different conclusions. The Vatican instruction judges illicit any procedure that bypasses or substitutes for natural intercourse, while the proposed law 122/000062 permits the use of techniques of artificial reproduction by heterosexual couples and homosexuals, though it prohibits surrogate motherhood. This law protects donor anonymity in artificial insemination and stipulates that sperm from a single donor be used for no more than six inseminations. Proposed law 122/000061 prohibits the buying and selling of human embryos or organs and prevents the conception or abortion of an embryo solely for purposes of tissue donation.

The Vatican document has been subjected to critical analysis by theologians and moralists. [7] Discussion of the socialist law projects has led several authors to suggest changes in the proposed legislation, such as interdicting use of the new reproductive technologies by single women or "unstable" couples, thus effectively limiting their use to married or "stable" couples. [8]

The Near Future

Even though the Spanish Parliament has not yet approved these new laws governing reproductive technologies, ethical debate on the subject can be considered closed. The topics that arouse most interest now are euthanasia and human experimentation. These will doubtless be the focus of much of the literature in the immediate future.


[1] Tom L. Beauchamp and Laurence B. McCullough Etica medica. Las responsabilidades morales de los medicos, trans. Enrique Pareja, prol. Diego Gracia (Barcelona: Labor, 1987). Over the next few months the same publisher will also bring out a Spanish translation of Albert R. Jonsen, Mark Siegler, and William J. Winslade's Clinical Ethics.

[2] The Borja Institute of Bioethics (San Cugat del Valles, Barcelona) is publishing a collection of books under the title Harizontes de bioetica (vol. 1, 1985; vol. 2, 1986). Other collections include: Javier Gafo, ed., Dilemas eticos de la medicina actual (Madrid: publicaciones de la Universidad Pontifica Comillas, 1986); Santiago Grisolia et al., Biologia, desarrollo cientifico, y 'etica (Valencia: Foundacion Valenciana de Estudios Avanzados, 1986); Diego Gracia et al., Lecciones de bioetica (Valladolid: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Valladolid, 1987); and Javier Gafo, ed., Fundamentacion de la bio-'etica y manipulacion genetica (Madrid: Publicaciones de la Universidad Pontifica Comillas, 1988).

[3] Marciano Vidal, Bioetica, vol. 2 of Moral de actitudes (Madrid: PS, 1985), 5th ed.; Diego Gracia, Fundamentos de bioetica (Madrid: EUDEMA, 1988).

[4] See also Ramon Marton Mateo, Bioetica y derecho (Barcelona: Ariel, 1987).

[5] Diego Gracia, "Spain: From the Decree to the Proposal," Hastings Center Report 17:3 (June 1987), Supplement, 29-31.

[6] "Proposicion de Ley 122/000062 sobre Tecnicas de reproduccion asistida, presentada por el Grupo Parlamentario Socialista," Boletin Oficial de las Cortes Generales, 9 de mayo de 1987, num. 74-1, pp. 1-12; "Proposicion de Ley 122/000061 sobre Donacion y utilizacion de embriones y fetos humanos o de sus cetulas, tejidos u organos, presentada por el Grupo Parlamentario Socialista," Boletin Oficial de las Cortes Generales, 9 de mayo 1987, num. 73-1, pp. 1-5.

[7] Marciano Vidal, Javier Elizari and Miguel Rubio, El don de la vida. Etica de la procreacion humana (Madrid: PS, 1987).

[8] See R.J. Lacadena et al., La fecundacion artificial: Ciencia y 'etica (Madrid: PS, 1985); Javier Gafo, ed., Nuevas tecnicas de reproduccion humana (Madrid: Publicaciones de la Universidad Pontifica Comillas, 1986); Javier Gafo, *Hacia un mundo feliz? Problemas 'eticos de las nuevas tecnicas de reproduccion humana (Madrid: Atenas, 1987).

Diego Gracia is professor of bioethics and medical humanities in the department of history of science at the Complutensis University, Madrid, Spain.
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Title Annotation:Special Supplement: International Perspectives on Biomedical Ethics
Author:Garcia, Diego
Publication:The Hastings Center Report
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Aug 1, 1988
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