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Human relationship oriented approach to bioethics

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I was asked to write a short self-introduction for an English newsletter. The following is the first part of it. This will be edited and printed next year. I am not sure if the newsletter will be published on the web.

I was born in 1958 in Kochi prefecture, Japan, and studied philosophy and ethics at the University of Tokyo. First I intended to study quantum physics but I shifted my course to philosophy and ethics, particularly European ones. I researched the philosophy of Wittgenstein and published some papers. Simultaneously, I was strongly interested in medical ethics and environmental ethics. At that time, in the 1980s, Japanese academicians began trying to introduce American bioethics into Japan, hence, I studied English literatures on bioethics and environmental ethics, but I was very frustrated with their discussion. I felt that their discussion failed to grasp the importance of “human relationships,” and the “relationship” between debated topics and the researcher him/herself.

A nation-wide debate on brain death began in the mid-1980s. I has been deeply involved in this debate from the late 1980s to the present. Japan is a country where there has been a very few organ transplants from brain dead donors. One of the reasons of this would be that Japan has had a great amount of nation-wide debate on this topic, including not only specialists but lay citizens. In Japan, 30% of the population do not think that brain death is human death. I published the book, “Brain Dead Person” in 1989, and stressed that brain death should be viewed from the perspective of “human relationships,” particularly in terms of the human relationship between a brain dead patient and his/her family members.

I stressed the importance of psychological & spiritual relationships between a brain dead patient and his/her family members surrounding the patient. A very unique “reality” exists in this relationship, which cannot be understood by the doctors or coordinators who are basically strangers to the patient and the family. This approach, together with other important books on brain death written by other authors, created an interesting approach to bioethics, namely, “human relationship oriented analysis to brain death.” I coined the words “life studies” and proposed a new research area inside and outside of bioethics.

Speaking of brain death, two bills on the revision of current transplantation law are now presented to the Diet. One of them is based on the proposal that Dr. Sugimoto and I publicly proposed in 2001. If you are interested in the Japanese debate on brain death and organ transplantation please visit our website and read papers and materials on this topic.

(To be continued...)

Photo: Kyoto Tower, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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