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March 28, 2006

Prenatal diagnosis, sense of security, and bioethics


I have uploaded the entire text of my paper, "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology," Polylog 6, (2005). This paper is, in a sense, a summary of my thoughts for these five years. If you are interested in my recent philosophical discussions, I would strongly recommend to read it.

In this paper I discussed the concept of "fundamental sense of security" in the age of human biotechnology. I concluded that if prenatal diagnosis is "wrong," it is because it systematically deprives us of this fundamental sense of security.

Then what is the "fundamental sense of security"? In this paper I wrote:

This is the feeling that one’s existence is welcomed unconditionally.

That is to say,

This is a sense of security that allows me to strongly believe that even if I had been unintelligent, ugly, or disabled, at least my existence in the world would have been welcomed equally, and even if I succeed, fail, or become a doddering old man, my existence will continue to be welcomed.

Or put in other words,

This is a sense of security with which we can believe that we will never be glanced at by anyone with unspoken words, “I wish you were not born” or “I wish you would disappear from the world.”

Ok, imagine prenatal diagnosis or other technologies for selection of life. To use these technologies and "destroy" unwanted fetuses or fertilized eggs is equivalent to declare that "we wish you were not born" to existing disabled people. And even if you are not disabled person now, someday you might be considered to be an unwanted person by the majority people, and glanced at with unspoken words, “I wish you were not born.” And the progress of technologies for selection of life and the accumulation of this kind of unspoken consciousness gradually deprive us of the sense of security described above. This is the subtle but most important issue concerning prenatal diagnosis.

What do you think? You may not be persuaded by the above logic. Then please read the whole paper and give me a comment. In my book, Painless Civilization, the entire Chapter 2 is dedicated to this topic. It is really hard to summarize the discussion on this kind of issue.

See related post: Fundamental sense of security, disappearence of conviction of love (February 18, 2006)

Related External Links: Prenatal diagnosis and termination (A discussion from a different angle)

(To be continued...)

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 23, 2006

Stereotypes about African-Americans in Japan


I have read the blog of an African-American woman who are staying in Japan as a Fulbright student. Sista in Sendai is her blog. Her writings are very interesting. In her posts, "Stereotypes and Speaking Out" and "Stereotypes and Speaking Out II" she talks about the image of African-American held by Japanese people, which made me rethink our prejudice against African-Americans prevalent on Japanese TV and in ordinary people's consciousness.

I presume one of the shocking things to African-Americans who visit Japan would be that Japanese attitudes to African-Americans are clearly different from those to Caucasian-Americans. I remember that when I was a high school student I saw my friends around me imitate a monkey and laugh a Japanese athlete with African-American ancestry. Of course this is 30 years ago, and now there are lots of Japanese young guys who genuinely respect African-American hip hop stars, hence, this might be a once-upon-a-time story. But I suspect that there still remains a heavy consciousness of discrimination among ordinary Japanese. And I really hate this kind of discriminatory mind among Japanese people.

The administrator of Sista in Sendai shows us some stereotypes about African-Americans held by Japanese. Reading her posts I remember my own stereotype about African-Americans. When I visited Wesleyan University, Connecticutt, I was very surprised to see a young African-American male college student who was very poor at playing basketball. At that time, I realized for the first time that I falsely believed that every African-American boy plays basketball very well just as professional basketball players do.

In Sista in Sendai she talks about Bob Sapp and Bobby Ologun. Her comment is interesting. I think many Japanese might have been doing similar things in the US or other countries as professinal wrestlers and movie actors&actresses. But of course I understand the seriousness of this kind of issue concerning race and ethnicity. (Do you know the issue of Chibikuro Sanbo in Japan?)

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 17, 2006

Unit 731 and medical ethics in Japan


I have received the Second Announcement of the 8th World Congress of Bioethics, which will be held at Beijing, 6-9 August this year. I am not a member of International Association of Bioethics, but the names of my friends and scholars I met at conferences before are listed in the list of organizers and commentators. I have to decide by April 15 whether to participate or not. I have never been to China. This might be a good opportunity to experience culture and society out there.

The most interesting program, for me, is the one entitled "Ethical lessons from Unit 731's Human Experiments" (morning, 8 August) and Sepecial Symposium "Japanese Wartime Atrocities" organized by Jin-Bao Nie, University of Otago (afternoon, 7 August). This topic was once presented by Takashi Tsuchiya in the 5th World Congress of Bioethics, 2000. The Unit 731's human experimentation was carried out in China during the WW2. More than 3,000 Chinese people were tortured and killed by Japanese doctors. This human experimentation included vivisections for medical training, intentional infection, and learning tolerance of the human body. I don't know how many Japanese participants will be participating in these sessions because the issue of 731 is still a kind of taboo in Japanese bioethics. I would like to join and see what kinds of topics will be discussed there.

Takashi Tsuchiya concluded in his important paper on Unit 731's human experimentation as follows:

I believe it is the Japanese and East-Asian values, such as respect for authority and harmony, in the Japanese medical profession that not only made possible the massacre by human experimentation in China during the period of 1933-1945 but also prevented a public investigation after the war. That is why I entirely disagree with Japanese proponents of "the East-Asian Bioethics" who have never mentioned the past conduct of the Japanese medical profession. For Japanese bioethicists, it is dangerous, shameful, and outrageous to discuss a "moral community" among East-Asian countries without serious reflection on the past acts of Japan. (Takashi Tsuchiya, "Why Japanese doctors performed human experiments in China 1933-1945," Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 10 (2000), 179-180.)

Tsuchiya implied that Japanese authoritarianism shared by the Japanese doctors worsened the problem. In Japan and other East Asian countries, authoritarianism and the pursuit of harmony among people have been considered to be the highest virtue, but this mentality often leads people not to criticize their bosses even when they are performing an apparent act of injustice.

It is shocking that doctors who performed those human experimentations came back to Japan after the war and gained good positions, and some of them became important figures in Japanese medical circles. Wikipedia says as follows:

Many former members of Unit 731 became part of the Japanese medical establishment. Dr Kitano Masaji led Japan's largest pharmaceutical company, the Green Cross. Others headed U.S.-backed medical schools or worked for the Japanese health ministry. (Wiki)

The reason why this was possible was, according to Wikipedia,

At the end of the war however, he [MacArthur] secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731 in exchange for providing America with their research on biological weapons. The United States believed that the research data was valuable because the allies had never publicly conducted this type of human experimentation, due to potential political fallout. Also, the U.S. did not want any other nation, particularly the Soviet Union, to acquire data on biological weapons.

As a result, the topic of "human experimentation" became taboo in the Japanese medical profession, and in Japanese bioethics as well until recently. It is worth noticing that Green Cross Pharmaceutical (Mitsubishi Pharma Corporation) led by a 731 doctor caused the notorious HIV scandal (the blood products made by Green Cross was contaminated with HIV and killed more than 400 patients) and the hepatitis C scandal (the one similar to the above).

This should become one of the most important topics of Japanese medical ethics.

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

Related post: Unit 731 and atrocities in China during World War II

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 11, 2006

Movable Type


I have just installed Movable Type instead of Blogger. Now you can send a trackback from your blog page. And you can find "Category" section and "Recent Comments" section in the side bar. For some reasons the recent comments section does not work automatically, but anyway it works correctly by hand. It took a lot of time to install Movable Type. I am a little exhausted now.

I am going to move the older posts to this blog little by little. Please change your bookmark, link, or RSS to this blog. http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

I would like to talk about environmental ethics in the next post.

Photo: Osaka Prefecture University

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org