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Leon Kass, Beyond Therapy


I read the Japanese translation of Leon kass's (+President's Council on Bioethics) Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness, and wrote a book review for a monthly magazine. This is a really interesting book. This report, probably deeply influenced by the philosophy of Leon Kass, casts doubt on some advanced medical technologies which seek to enhance the ability of a baby, extend longevity, or make people happier by medication.

This is a report of the President's Council on Bioethics. The President of the United States is George W. Bush. Hence, this report may be considered as the propaganda of American conservative bioethics. For instance, a reviewer at Amazon.com writes as follows:

This book is just Leon Kass's latest treatise on all the possible (but not necessarily probable) negative aspects of biological research and progress. Leon Kass was appointed by George W. Bush as his "Bioethics" committee board chairman - and Leon quickly filled the board with other right-wing christian fundamentalists. (Amazon)

It might be interesting to broaden our horizons to see the situation in Japan. In Japan, conservative ideas about advanced medical technologies have been supported mainly by left-wing parties. On the contrary, conservative parties have supported the progress of science and technology relating to human life. For example, the Liberal Democratic Party, the biggest conservative party, supported the research on human ES cells and some human cloning technologies, and the Democratic party of Japan, the biggest opposition party, tried to restrict them as much as possible.

Hence, in Japan, it might be said that the role of "right-wing Christian fundamentalists" in the US has been played by left-wing bioethicists and politicians. This is a really interesting phenomenon. However, at the same time, (this may sound strange to US readers), concerning abortion, Japanese right-wing parties wish to restrict it, and Japanese left-wing parties try to protect women's right to abortion.

I suppose I am categorized as a left-wing bioethicist because I support women's right to abortin but I don't support the endless progress of biomedical technology. (Of course I don't think abortion is a "good" thing. See my paper). This report doesn't talk about abortion. Instead they talk repeatedly about the preciousness of a limited human life and persuade us to accept our own life as an indispensable and irreplaceable gift. This is just what left-wing thinkers have said in Japan against the government policy to promote technology and industry concerning biotechnology and advanced medicine.

If US Christian bioethicists care little about our ideas about abortion, they will learn a lot from Japanese left-wing discussions on bioethics. And even some of left-wing discussions on abortion may be interesting because they can find a unique idea about human desire and evil (See the above paper).

Anyway, this report might become a turning point in the history of US bioethics. I am a kind of left-wing thinker, and I oppose to President Bush's conservatism and foreign policy, but I do respect the authors who wrote this report.

I will talk about the content of this report in the next entry.

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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