September 29, 2007

Self-determination and the Ethics of Life Extension


Today, I wrote the abstract of my presentation, which will be presented at UNESCO Kumamoto conference to be held in December this year. (Perspectives on Self-determination, Kumamoto University, Japan, Dec.15-16, 2007). The conference is organized by Dr. Takao Takahashi, one of the leaders in Japan's medical ethics. Darryl Macer (UNESCO Bangkok) and other Japanese scholars are scheduled to participate.

The following is my abstract.

Self-determination and the Ethics of Life Extension

Masahiro Morioka, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan

The book, “Beyond Therapy,” written by Leon Kass and the President’s Council of Bioethics, was published in 2003. In Chapter 4 of their book, the authors discussed the ethics of life extension and age-retardation, and concluded that the technologies that accelerate them should not be encouraged because they might deprive us of the meaning of life and human dignity. From just after the publication, academic articles criticizing their argument started to appear in bioethics journals. Most of them strongly advocated freedom of research on life extension and age-retardation, and our right to choose (or buy) those future technologies in terms of the principle of self-determination. Some authors profess their desire to live as long as possible even if it be more than several hundred years.

Since last year, when I had an opportunity in Japan to give a public lecture on ethics of life and death, I talked about this topic every time and asked the audience how they thought about this issue. Surprisingly, the majority of people who replied to me said that they didn’t wish to live for such a long period of time even if they could buy those technologies. In the United States of America, people who object to the idea of life extension and are-retardation are those who are sympathetic with Christian values. Then, what about in Japan?

Concerning this topic, the philosopher Hans Jonas published a paper entitled, “The Burden and Blessing of Mortality,” in Hastings Center Report in 1992. In his paper he concludes that death is a burden to us, but at the same time, death is a blessing to humans. I would like to make clear what he really meant to say in his last philosophical paper, and finally, I would like to present my comments on this topic.

Kumamoto City is located at the west coast of Kyushu Island. To the south, there is the world famous city of Minamata. I have never been there. I want to visit this city someday.

Photo: Zushi Coast

  -- M.Morioka

August 29, 2007

Bioethics and sociology of medicine


I have not updated this blog and our website for more than two months, but I am fine, healthy, and trying to finish two new books in Japanese, so please do not worry (^_^). The books I am writing are an introductory one that deals with men's studies and a collection of short philosophical essays.

And after finish writing, I will make a digital file of the English version of Brain Dead Person, and write several papers in English, and rewrite the book Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics in English, which was published in 2001 in Japanese. I will come back to this blog and website within a year or so :-).

I really think the English language is still a major hurdle to overcome. In Japanese I can think and write quickly, but it takes a lot of time to translate it into English in my head. Current Japanese bioethics and sociology of medicine are becoming really interesting. I want to show the outline of our discussion made in Japanese in recent years. And I want to also write about our research project on the philosophy of life at our college. It will become more and more important to exchange ideas with people with various cultural backgrounds in this field.

I will write about this again in the next post.

  -- M.Morioka

June 17, 2007

Philosophy and Bioethics of Life Extension


I don't still have enough time to write a blog post. This spring my Japanese paper on the ethics of life extension and age retardation was published. The following is the abstract of the paper.

Philosophy and Bioethics of Life Extension: An Analysis of Topics Found in Major Publications

Masahiro Morioka

In this paper, the current discussion on life extension is reviewed and analyzed from the viewpoint of philosophy and bioethics. After the publication of Leon Kass’s Beyond Therapy (2003), the issue of life extension and age retardation has come to the forefront of current bioethical discussions. I take a closer look at the discussions by such philosophers as Hans Jonas, Leon Kass, David Gems, John Harris, A. D. N. J. de Grey, John Schloendorn and Steven Horrobin, and criticize some of their arguments. My conclusion is as follows. While the conservatives’ argument does not provide a sufficient ground for prohibiting the development of life extension technologies, it successfully shows us the anxiety and suffering we might have to bear in the coming long-life society. Moreover, no matter how long our lifespan may be extended, all of us must die sooner or later, hence, the question of how to die without regret would continue to remain as a central issue even in such a society. The liberals seem to avoid this philosophical question. Finally, I want to stress that further discussion about the philosophy of life should be needed in the field of life extension and age retardation.

(The original title is: "Seienchou no Tetsugaku to Seimeirinrigaku" in Ningenkagaku, Osaka Prefecture University, Vol.2, pp.65-95 (2007))

I am thinking of writing an English paper on the same topic.

Photo: Zushi Coast

May 28, 2007

A new approach to bioethics


These days I have been thinking of rewriting my Japanese book, A Life Studies Approach to Bioethics, published in 2001 (So far I have translated the title of this book as, Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, but this translation might be a misleading one. I am not sure which one would be better suited. Do you have any suggestion?) And I am now planning to rewrite it in English, which means that the content of the whole book will be reexamined and restructured in English, and further discussions will be introduced if needed. Therefore, this is not mere translation, but something equivalent to writing the second edition of this book.

Last year I joined bioethics conferences in the USA, China, and Germany, and It became clear that my discussion in this book would be helpful to the international discussion on bioethics and philosophy of life. Especially, discussions on brain death, feminist bioethics, abortion, disabled people's bioethics, and new eugenics will be able to make a significant impact on an international audience in this field. When rewriting the book, I have to read a number of important books and papers that have been published after 2001. And of course my English should be edited by a native speaker.

I am not sure whether I should try to find a publisher, or just put the English text on this website. Publication from Osaka Prefecture University might be one possibility (but they probably do not have a skill to sell in the international acdemic market). Anyway, the original book was warmly welcomed in Japan, so I believe the English edition will attract many readers who are interested in biothics and contemporary philosophy.

Photo: Yoroi Kabuto (samurai warrior's helmet and armor)

  -- M.Morioka

March 18, 2007

Removing organs from brain dead children


The paper, "Is it Morally Acceptable to Remove Organs from Brain-Dead Children?," Lancet Neurology, Vol.6, January, 2007, p.90, has been uploaded to our website. The idea that the brain dead children who have not declared their wish should have the right not to be exploited by the desire of adults is, I believe, a minority view not only in Japan but also in the world, but I don't think my argument is senseless or absurd. I would like to hear your comment about this topic. The Lancet is a super-famous medical journal, the impact factor of which is over 20.

By the way, I have just finished the paper, "What is Life Studies?," in Japanese. This paper will be published in the journal Gendai Bunmeigaku Kenkyu (Journal of Contemporary Civilization Studies) next month. I will try to summarize the core message of this paper in English, and rewrite "What is Life Studies" page as soon as possible.

The photo above was taken at Zushi Coast, Kanagawa Prefecture, last month. The wind was cold, and the waves were wild. I could see a number of seashells on the beach. The sea is the place where all life came out of, and where we return after we die and get cremated. The ocean is the matrix of life, and that is why we are attracted to the sea when we are tired and need some healing.

Photo: Zushi Coast, Kanagawa

  -- M.Morioka

February 12, 2007

Ashley X, comments and criticisms


In December I wrote a comment on therapy performed on a six-year-old girl with intellectual disability. In that therapy, her growth was stopped by adding estrogen, and her uterus and breast buds were removed. Early this year, her parents began their blog, and this case (Ashley X case) became widely known to the public.

On January 26th, Peter Singer wrote a comment in New York Times. He supported the parents' decision and concluded as follows:

What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families. (web)

On the other hand, disability groups such as Not Dead Yet and Feminist Response in Disability Activism strongly criticized this therapy. From Not Dead Yet's website:

Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group dealing with medical and bioethics issues involving euthanasia, reacted today to the public debate about the so-called "growth attenuation" invasive medical experimentation performed on a young girl in Washington State. These procedures rendered her sterile, prevented any sort of puberty and will keep the girl the size she is now for the rest of her life.

"We are saddened but not surprised by the fact that this was publicized and met with a great deal of public approval," said Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet. "The public is willing to sanction the murders of disabled children by their parents, so it’s hardly surprising they would rush to the support of parents and their medical partners in a matter like this." (web)

One of the most striking comments the parents wrote in their blog is this: (Concerning the removal of the uterus,)

Additional and incidental benefits include avoiding any possibility of pregnancy, which to our astonishment does occur to disabled women who are abused. (web)

I can understand what they mean, however, at the same time, I feel somewhat horrified to read such a sentence because this implies that the parents actually imagine the possibility that their daughter might be sexually abused by someone.

They wrote this is an "additional and incidental" benefit. But I suppose that this might have been the most important reason, on the subconscious level, why they chose this therapy for their beloved daughter. I don't mean to offend the parents, for this is a difficult problem for all of us. In a case like this, what we would fear would be that our daughter becomes the target of sexual assault, and as a result, another human life comes into existence in her uterus. We can find here the darkest side of our sexuality, and this makes me depressed.

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

Related post: Should severely disabled children be kept small?

  -- M.Morioka

January 16, 2007

Brain dead childen can grow taller


The following is the second part of my paper, "Is it morally acceptable to remove organs from brain-dead children?," published in The Lancet Neurology, vol.6, January 2007, p.90.

Is it morally acceptable to remove organs from brain-dead children?
Masahiro Morioka

Part 2 (Part 1 is here)

Second, concerning the donor’s prior declaration principle, Dr. Tateo Sugimoto and I have proposed to revise the current law and allow children between 6 years and 15 years to be able to have donor cards and express their wishes on brain death and organ transplants. A Donor card without the signature of a person with parental authority should not be accepted (4). This approach is the only way to remove organs from brain-dead children, maintaining the donor’s prior declaration principle. In the Article 12 of “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” we can find this expression, “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child.” This is the basic idea of our proposal.

Then, what about when a brain-dead child does not have a valid donor card, or when the child is younger than 6 years of age? I think in this case the organs should not be removed from a brain-dead child even if the parents wish to do so. The silent child might have been thinking that a brain-dead person is not really dead, or it might be that organ removal was against the child’s inner wish. Organ removal from such a child is equivalent to exploitation of a “living” child. Children have the right not to be exploited by the desire of adults. When a brain dead child has said nothing about brain death, we have to think that the child has a right to live and die peacefully, fully protected against the interests of others. One might say that this means to discard babies with severe diseases who can’t survive without transplantation. Last year (2005) a 1 year old Japanese baby received five organs in the USA, but unfortunately she lived only 5 months and died early this year (2006). By contrast, the brain-dead baby, mentioned above, “lived” 4 years with her parents in a hospital. Every year her birthday was celebrated by the medical staff. No one can decide which life is superior to or more valuable than the other. It is time to reconsider organ transplantation from brain-dead children.

1) Masahiro Morioka, “Reconsidering Brain Death,” Hastings Center Report 31, no.4 (2001): 41-46
2) D. A. Shewmon, “Chronic ‘Brain Death,’” Neurology 51 (1998): 1538-45.
3) Chisen Kamei, Hidamari no Byoshitsu de. Medica Shuppan, 2002.
4) Masahiro Morioka and Tateo Sugimoto, “A Proposal for Revision of the Organ Transplantation Law Based on a Child Donor’s Prior Declaration,” EJAIB 11 (2001):108-110.

What do you think, especially about the last part of this paper? Most people do not know the fact that a brain dead child sometimes continue to "live" for more than a year and grow taller and taller, and move their hands and legs frequently, without the function of his/her brain. In many countries such facts are not disclosed to the family. They are just told that their brain dead child is dead and there is no hope of recovery, hence, the final option is to donate organs for transplants. In Japan, organ transplants from brain dead children are prohibited under the current law, and as a result, some family members can live with their brain dead child in hospitals for more than a year happily. The problem is that the current law is scheduled to be revised to enable organ transplants from brain dead children without their own wishes.

This paper will be uploaded to the main website soon.

Related post: *BBC's biased report on organ transplants
                    *Removing organs from brain dead children

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan

  -- M.Morioka

January 13, 2007

Ethics of infant brain death


My paper, "Is it morally acceptable to remove organs from brain-dead children?" was published in The Lancet Neurology, vol.6, January 2007, p.90. This is a summary of what I have been thinking about the morality of removing organs from "brain-dead" children. Currently, in Japan, two organ transplantation revision laws are being discussed in the Diet, both of which treat organ transplantation from brain-dead children as a main topic. (See Reconsidering Brain Death).

The following is the first part of the paper.

Is it morally acceptable to remove organs from brain-dead children?
Masahiro Morioka

In Japan, according to several surveys, around 30% of the population do not accept brain death as death of the human being. The current law on organ transplantation was established on the basis of the idea of pluralism on human death -- that is, people can determine beforehand, if they want, whether to choose brain death as their own death or not, and if they have not declared anything, their death is diagnosed by the cessation of heartbeat. Personally, I highly appreciate Japanese pluralism on human death because it shows a deep respect for the diversity of ideas on life and death (1).

The basic policy of organ transplantation from brain dead donors in Japan is: “From those who wish to donate to those who wish to receive.” This is called the donor’s prior declaration principle. According to this principle, only when a donor has declared his or her consent beforehand in the form of a donor card, both a legal brain-dead diagnosis and an organ removal become possible on the premise that the family does not refuse it.

However, this principle has created some difficult problems we had never imagined. The most difficult of which is organ removal from a brain-dead child. First, the current guideline stipulates that the legal brain-death diagnosis of a child younger than 15 years of age must not be performed because the statement of a child younger than 15 years of age written in a donor card is not deemed legally valid. This means that organ transplants from brain-dead children younger than this age are forbidden. Second, doctors and nurses continue caring for brain-dead children until their heart naturally stops beating because a brain dead child is regarded as legally alive under the current law for the above reason, and since most parents wish to continue caring for their brain dead child, sometimes the heart of a brain-dead child continues beating more than a month in a hospital. A doubt about the idea of infant brain death is beginning to arise among specialists.

How should we think about organ transplantation from brain dead children?

First, as I noted above, there are many people in Japan who think that a brain dead patient with a warm body should not be considered dead even if he or she has permanently lost consciousness. The 6 year old son of Dr. Tateo Sugimoto was hit by a car and became brain dead. Sugimoto was a neurologist; however, he could not accept the view that his brain-dead son was dead. He continued to think that his son was alive until his heart stopped beating. According to Alan Shewmon, brain-dead children are more likely than brain-dead adults to progress to a state of chronic brain death (2). In 1995, a Japanese baby became brain dead soon after she was born. She grew taller and “lived” until the age of 4 years in the state of brain death (3). These cases strongly suggest that it should be considered reasonable for the parents to believe that their brain dead-child is alive, especially when the child’s body is warm, the limbs move, or the child grows taller. Pluralism on human death should not be abandoned, especially in the case of children.

(Continues on the next post)

Related post: *BBC's biased report on organ transplants
                    *Removing organs from brain dead children

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan

  -- M.Morioka

December 31, 2006

Human relationship oriented approach to bioethics


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

December 07, 2006

Should severely disabled children be kept small?


Reuters reported on Nov.1 that the parents of a 6-year-old girl with severe developmental disability decided to stop her growth permanently by injecting estrogen. This therapy was successful, and the girl has stopped growing. (The report suggests that the parents live in Seattle, USA). Do you think such a therapy is morally acceptable?

The parents say that it is extremely difficult to care for a child with profound developmental disabilities, particularly after menstruation begins.

Caring for children with profound developmental disabilities can be difficult and demanding, they note. For children with severe combined neurologic and cognitive impairment who are unable to move without assistance, all the necessities of life -- dressing, bathing, transporting -- must be provided by caregivers, usually parents, and these tasks become increasing difficult, if not impossible, as the child increases in size.

They were concerned about having to turn over care to "strangers" and also about the complications that would arise when the child started menstruating. (web)

What we have to discuss is whether the difficulty of caring could constitute a sufficient reason for halting the growth of a child. It might be acceptable to halt the growth in case that the growth causes to the child an unbearable pain that cannot be cured by any medications. But in the above case, it is the parents, not the child herself, that experience the difficulties of caring.

I don't think this kind of therapy is defendable. I have found a couple of Japanese blogs that discussed this case. Both are negative about the parents' decision. 25 years ago, a Japanese woman with disability was sterilized because of the difficulties of caring for her menstruation. A group of disabled people denounced this case. They believed that there must have been many other similar cases among disabled women living in nursing homes.

Anyway, in the both cases, menstruation seems to be a crucial point. I believe feminist bioethicists have to say something about the important role that menstruation played in these cases. Is menstruation an experience that should be deleted from the life of a severely disabled woman (girl) who cannot care for it herself?

Of course, in the above case, menstruation is only one of the reasons for stopping her growth, but I feel we must not belittle the fact that the parents refered to menstruation when they justified their decision to stop the growth of their daughter.

Related post: Ashley X, comments and criticisms

Photo: The Supreme Court, Tokyo

  -- M.Morioka

December 01, 2006

BBC's biased report on organ transplants


Yesterday, BBC World broadcasted a report on organ transplants in Japan, which was made by a BBC correspondent in Tokyo. I happened to see the report, but it seemed to me that it was a very biased one. The reason was that they have not made a sufficient research on the debate about brain death and organ transplantation in Japan.

They stressed that Japan is the country where very few organs have been transplanted (Yes, this is true), and that it is impossible for a child to get hearts from dead donors (Yes, this is also true), and they said that in Japan a number of organs are "wasted" (Well, what do they mean by this word? In Japan, such an improper word is not used in the context of organ transplants any more today), and they questioned why Japanese do not wish to donate their organs to save patients and children.

The biggest problem is that in Japan the brain death controversy has not yet been settled among lay people and among specialists. About 30% of the population do not accept the idea that a brain dead person is dead. Unlike UK and other countries, Japanese people have experienced a nation-wide debate on brain death in 1980s and 90s, and not a few of them know questionable data about brain death. Some weeks ago a Japanese news show finally aired the videotape of "lazarus sign," in which a brain dead patient's both arms voluntarily move around his body in a complicated way as if he had clear consciousness. This video was taken by medial stuff in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Such signs have been observed in a number of hospitals around the world, but the information have not been offered to lay people until today. (Although lazarus sign does not show the consciousness of the brain dead patient, this fact eloquently shows that the reality of brain death is contrary to lay people's intuition about it.)

Many Japanese people still hesitate to accept brain death as human death. There are many specialists around the world who do not think brain death as human death, but their voices do not reach lay people in their countries because the mass media does not try to report them. Unlike those countries, the Japanese mass media has tried to report various information on brain death, and as a result, Japanese people have been provided with not only positive data but also negative data about brain death.

The viewers of BBC World would probably have had the impression that the Japanese are the "egoistic" people who does not wish to donate their organs after they die. This is because BBC did not report in their program the importance of the brain death controversy in Japan. This is the reason I say that BBC's report was heavily biased.

Please read the related paper: "Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan’s Fifteen Years of Experience" (Hastings Center Report, 2001)

Related posts: *Japanese organ transplantation law
                     *Ethics of infant brain death

Photo: Konoe Kaikan building, Tokyo

  -- M.Morioka

October 28, 2006

Sense of discomfort, American bioethics


Yesterday, Christian Steineck, Associate Professor at Bonn University, who is currently staying in Japan for a couple of weeks, came to Osaka. He and I went to the Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper Osaka branch, and had a talk with a Yomiuri journalist. Our talk will be published in Yomiuri Shimbun Osaka. We talked about our conference held last month in Tuebingen.

I stressed that German bioethics and Japanese bioethics resemble with each other in that both share an unwillingness to affirm "eugenic" technologies, utilitarianism, and direct intervention with human body and life. One of the reasons of this resembrance is probably Japanese philosophy (and jurisprudence) has been greatly influenced by modern German philosophy (and jurisprudence), and another reason would be that Germany and Japan was the executers of eugenics and human experimentation during World War II, namely, Auschwitz and Unit 731 etc.

Christian said that while the United Utates and Germany share Christianity and the tradition of European philosophy, German philosophers feel a "sense of discomfort" when importing American bioethics to their country. Of course, similar things happened in Japan.

I think it is very important to research on this sense of discomfort, because American bioethicists usually do not feel one. They have never tried to import bioethical thoughts outside the United States, particularly those of Asian, Islam, and Latin American countries. The problem of this sense of discomfort has not been the subject of their bioethical research. Thier interest in world bioethics is mainly based on their anthropological curiosity, such as "this kind of interesting discussions are going on in Japan, China, India, etc.". (Of course American liberal bioethicists feel a sense of discomfort to American conservative one, and vice versa, in their country.)

What do you think about this?

Photo: Albany, NY, USA

   -- M.Morioka

October 15, 2006

Human dignity in bioethics, German conference


I attended the conference, Japanese and Asian Bioethics, 26-29 September 2006, at Tuebingen University. The first day was dedicated to presentations by young scholars in Germany and Japan. Among them, the presentation, "Application of Preinplantation Genetic Diagnosis in Japan," by Kayoko Yamamoto, was most stimulating. She insisted that preimplantation genetic diagnosis has more ethical problems than prenatal diagnosis (selective abortion), because in the case of PGD the pregnant woman can abort a fetus without experienceing an intimate mother fetus relationship in her womb. Her discussion sounded somewhat paradoxical, but it made me think deeply about the morality of abortion and the meaning of life.

On the second and third days we discussed about the regulation of research on human embryo, and about the debate on brain death and organ transplantation in Japan. There were three insiders among the participants, namely, Susumu Shimazono, who was a member of the Committee on Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Ryuichi Ida, who was also a member of the committee and other related committees, and Yutaka Hishiyama, who was working as a governmental official in this field at that time. Hence, we had a deep discussion hearing their "personal experiences" in the actual political process of establishing guidelines and rules.

On the last day, we had a free discussion over current bioethical issues. One of the debated topics was the meaning of "human dignity" in the area of bioethics. In the German constitution, "human dignity" is stipulated as this: "Human dignity is inalienable. To respect and to protect it is the duty of all state authority." (wiki) Ole Doering pointed out in our discussion that even in the German constitution the term "human dignity" was not clearly defined. Ida said to us that in the above committee he decided to skip philosophical discussions about the concept of human dignity because he was afraid that once the discussion began it would never reach any consensus. On the contrary, Shimazono, who was also a member of the committee, tried to continue a philosophical debate on human dignity no matter how much time it might take. (See the paper, "The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life")

I have the impression that the discussion on "human dignity" should be continued, but we have to keep in mind that the concept of human dignity is different from that of "sanctity of human life," because it is logically possible to imagine cases in which intervention with "natural" human life should be needed to protect his/her human dignity. However in most cases, human dignity is fully protected when we withhold such intervention in the field of bioethics. This is a really difficult topic. I have the intuition that my concept "fundamental sense of security" must serve as a methodological ground for pursuing human dignity.

Our conference was held in the old castle, Schloss Hohentuebingen, which is located at the center of the old city of Tuebingen. In the morning, this castle was covered with heavy fog, and we could hear various birds singing behind it. Tuebingen was a very beautiful city. In a bookstore in the university I could find a lot of German philosophy books that I had read in Japanese translation.

Photo: Albany, NY, USA

   -- M.Morioka

September 10, 2006

Japanese and Asian Bioethics in Context, Tuebingen


I am now preparing for a PowerPoint presentation for the conference, Japanese and Asian Bioethics in Context, to be held in Tuebingen, Germany, Sep.26-29. This is my second trip to Germany. I have never been to Tuebingen. I am looking forward to seeing the city and Tuebingen University.

I am going to talk about the "philosophy of life" found in the texts written by feminists and disabled people in the 1970s. In the second part of my presentation I am going to talk about the idea of "fundamental sense of security" and "human dignity" in the age of advanced technology.

You can see the whole program on the Tuebingen University's website.

Workshop “The bioethical Discourse in Japan”

11:00-11:30 Introduction
Prof. Dr. Robert Horres (Tübingen University)
Director Yutaka Homma (Cultural Institute, Cologne, The Japan Foundation)

11:30-11:15 Prof. Susumu Shimazono (Tokyo University, Japan)
“Religion, Ethics and Biopolitics in Japan”

11:15-12:00 Prof. Dr. Jun Matsuda (Shizuoka University, Japan)
“Stem cell research in Japan and in Germany”

12:00-13:30 Lunch Break

13:30-14:15 Prof. Dr. Masahiro Morioka (Prefectural University of Osaka, Japan)
“Painless Civilization and Philosophy of Life: A philosophical challenge to overcome the limitation of Japanese bioethical discussions”

14:15-15:00 Prof. Dr. Ryûichi Ida (Kyoto University, Japan)
“Japanese Bioethics: A Model for Asia?”

15:00-15:30 Coffee Break

15:30-16:15 Prof. Dr. Yutaka Hishiyama (Science Council of Japan, Tokyo, Japan)
“Resolving Bioethical Conundrums: Sources of Orientation for the Japanese Administration”

16:15-17:45 Discussion “Structures and Characteristics of the bioethical Discourse in Japan”

Bioethical Conflicts and Bioethical Discourse in Japan

10:00-10:45 Dr. Christian Steineck (Bonn University, Germany)
“Bioethics in the Academy: Ethical and Anthropological Traditions”

10:45-11:30 Dr. Ölschleger, Hans-Dieter (Bonn University, Germany)
“Values and attitudes towards bioethical issues in postwar Japan”

11:30-14:00 Lunch

14:00-14:45 Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Josef Kreiner (Bonn University, Germany)
“The religious Discourse”

14:45-15:30 Miki Olschina, M.A. (Tübingen University, Germany)
“Bioethical issues and the responsibility of Journalism in Japan”

15:30-16:00 Coffee Break

16:00-16:45 Prof. Dr. Robert Horres (Tübingen University, Germany)
“Biopolicy and Bioethical Conflicts”

16:45-18:00 Discussion “Japanese Approaches to the field of Bioethics”

Asian Bioethics

09.30-10:10 Dr. Christian Steineck (Bonn University, Germany)
“Biolaw, Biopolicy and Bioethics in Japan: Mutual Relation or Splendid Isolation?”

10:10-10:50 Dr. Ole Döring (Bochum University, Germany)
“Politic, public opinions, professional discourse”

10:50-11:30 Dr. Phillan Joung (Bochum University, Germany)
“The ideological character of culturalistic argumentations in bioethical discourse —Korean perspectives—”

11:30-13:30 Lunch

13:30-14:30 Discussion “Asian Bioethics? Fact or Fiction”

14:30-15:30 Meeting of the Research group on Transcultural Bioethics


Photo: Albany, NY, USA

   -- M.Morioka

August 20, 2006

Unit 731 and atrocities in China during World War II


As I wrote in the previous post, the most impressive presentation in IAB was that of Takashi Tsuchiya. In his lecture he talked about what Japanese physicians did in Unit 731 and other facilities during World War II. He began his talk, saying, "I don't talk for the sake of a nation. I will talk for the sake of victims." I don't want to repeat the content of his talk because it was too heavy and bloody to write down here. He concluded his speech saying:"The Japanese medical community has not reflected on what their colleagues did in China, They have a responsibility to make public the atrocities, and apologize to the victims of human experimentation." I was shocked to hear that all Chinese victims in Unit 731 were killed by the Japanese army when the war was over. There were no survivors. More than thousands of victims were captured and experimented on and killed.

Tsuchiya's speech was greeted with long applause, which showed that the audience was deeply impressed with his talk and his sincerity. Many people raised their hands. A Chinese young woman asked Tsuchiya what he had done to provide ordinary Japanese people with information about the atrocites committed by Unit 731. He replied that he had published some academic papers, but admitted that those papers had not reached ordinary people. A Japanese participant asked the chairman, Daniel Wikler, how he thought about this "unfair" and "politicized" symposium in which only Japanese war crimes were blamed before an international audience. Wikler replied that Unit 731 was well-known in China and Japan, but not in the rest of the world, hence it was nessesary to hold such a symposium in this conference.

Another important topic was secret deals behind closed doors just after the end of the war, made by the US and Japan, about scientific data acquired by Unit 731's human experimentation. The US decided not to prosecute Japanese physicians who had performed human experimentation for war crimes, in exchange for gaining precious data on biological weapons, diseases, etc. Most of the doctors returned to Japan and became professors, researchers, and executives of pharmaceutical companies. They have kept silent since then. The US gained the human experimentation data, created biological weapons, and used them in Korean War 1950-53 (See Wiki). The US was also an important player in the history of Unit 731.

Till Baernighausen said in his speech that a number of scientific papers to date have cited papers published by Unit 731's researchers. This means that even today data acquired by human experimentation (including vivisection) are utilized in the scientific community. Most authors are probably just ignorant of the historical facts. The problem here is whether it should be morally acceptable to use those data in order to promote medical science. Baernighausen proposed that major medical journals examine the citations appeared in their jounals, and investigate whether some of them might have cited Unit 731's papers in their reference lists.

A female participant (probably came from South Asia) raised her hand and said that in the case of Japanese Army's comfort women, Japanese women have supported a movement to bring the issue into the open, and asked whether there is a similar movement in Japan concerning Unit 731. Tsuchiya replied that there are individuals and groups who try to shed light on this issue, but there has been no such movement comparable to the problem of comfort women.

She also asked what the panelists thought about Japanese victims killed by the atomic bombs dropped by the US army. There were no responses. Another participant pointed out that the bargaining by the US was similar to the current US attitude towards war against terrorism.

Anyway, it was a very interesting and impressive symposium. I would like to say thank you to the chairman and IAB for their courageous attempt.


Related post: "Unit 731 and medical ethics in Japan"

Photo: Albany, NY, USA.

    -- M.Morioka

August 09, 2006

Beijing bioethics conference

The 8th World Congress of Bioethics is over. I am still in Beijing, but will soon go back to Japan. Since the Internet access is not so convenient here, I couldn’t upload a live report from Beijing. The most interesting and moving presentation I have heard in the conference was that of Professor Takashi Tsuchiya about Unit 731 and its legacy in the post-war Japan. I am going to write about his presentation after I come back home. Beijing is a beautiful city. I have experienced some interesting happenings here. I will talk about them, too, in the next post.

August 01, 2006

Beijing bioethics conference, and Americanization


I have just finished preparing for my presentation at the Beijing bioethics conference. I will fly to Beijing on August 3rd, and stay at a hotel near Tien An Men for a week. This is my first trip to China. I am a little nervous because I can't speak Chinese..... Japanese and Chinese share similar Chinese characters, however, pronuciations are "completely" different, and our cultures are also different (probably). Anyway, I will walk around Beijing and see how people are living in this changing metropolis.

Last month I was in Albany, New York, a city in the most "wealthy" country in the world, and this week I am in Beijing, another most important city in the world. Every time I come back from the US, I feel that Japan is becoming more and more a mini-America in its materialism and commercialism. Then, what about China? What's going on out there?

In addition to a PowerPoint presentation, I have made a leaflet that shows an outline of the criticism of painless civilization. I am thinking of handing out the leaflet to those who show interest in this topic. You can download the leaflet (PDF).

I am going to attend sessions on "Unit 731." It is going to be an exciting experience for me to hear presentations and responses from the audience.

Related post: "Unit 731 and medical ethics in Japan"

Photo: Night in Osaka

July 30, 2006

Bioethics in a Globalized World


I am going to China to participate in the 8th World Congress of Bioethics next week. The title of my presentation is "Ethical Issues in the Age of Painless Civilization: "Preventive Reduction of Pain" and "Fundamental Sense of Security."" I am thinking of talking about the idea of painless civilization and its relation to current biomedical technologies. Only ten minutes are allowed for the presentation, so I am not sure if I can fully convey my thought to the audience.

Augst 7
CS23: Bioethics in a Globalized World
Coordinators: Dan Brock and Godfrey Tangwa

Kayhan Parsi
Bioethics without borders: justices and service learning at Loyola University Chicago

Masahiro Morioka
Ethical issues in the age of painless civilization: “preventive reduction of pain” and “fundamental sense of security”

Maria Solino
Ethical principles and global citizenship: an engaged Buddhist perspective

Brunetto Chiarbili
Global bioethics: A suggested distinction between ethic and morality

Prasert Palitponganpim
Bioethics in Thailand: an experience from Non-Government organization in Thailand


Several sessions will be held simultaneously in the afternoon. It is interesting to talk about painless civilization in the context of globalization.

I don't know whether a hotel room has free internet access. If the room has a LAN connection, I will be able to update the blog from Beijing.

Related post:


Photo: Cafe near my apartment

Bioethics in a Globalized World


I am going to China to participate in the 8th World Congress of Bioethics next week. The title of my presentation is "Ethical Issues in the Age of Painless Civilization: "Preventive Reduction of Pain" and "Fundamental Sense of Security."" I am thinking of talking about the idea of painless civilization and its relation to current biomedical technologies. Only ten minutes are allowed for the presentation, so I am not sure if I can fully convey my thought to the audience.

Augst 7
CS23: Bioethics in a Globalized World
Coordinators: Dan Brock and Godfrey Tangwa

Kayhan Parsi
Bioethics without borders: justices and service learning at Loyola University Chicago

Masahiro Morioka
Ethical issues in the age of painless civilization: “preventive reduction of pain” and “fundamental sense of security”

Maria Solino
Ethical principles and global citizenship: an engaged Buddhist perspective

Brunetto Chiarbili
Global bioethics: A suggested distinction between ethic and morality

Prasert Palitponganpim
Bioethics in Thailand: an experience from Non-Government organization in Thailand


Several sessions will be held simultaneously in the afternoon. It is interesting to talk about painless civilization in the context of globalization.

I don't know whether a hotel room has free internet access. If the room has a LAN connection, I will be able to update the blog from Beijing.

Related post:


Photo: Cafe near my apartment

July 27, 2006

Nothing about us without us; and brain death


Since I came back to Japan, I have been thinking about disabled people's protest at the Albany bioethics conference. I asked an editor of Asahi Shimbun Newspaper whether it is possible for me to publish an essay on this event, then I received a positive reply from her. Yesterday, I finished writing it and sent to the newspaper. It will be published late in this month in the Kansai area and hopefully in the Tokyo area. A great deal of Japanese readers are going to know what happened in a bioethics conference held in the state capital of New York.

By the way, the slogan, "Nothing about us without us" is very hard to translate into Japanese. In the above essay I translated it as "Do not determine anything about us without us" in Japanese. I am afraid the word "determine" might have narrowed the original meaning, but I didn't come up with other appropriate expressions. I found the book "Nothing about us without us" on Amazon.

I have researched the ethics of brain death and organ transplantation for years, hence, in my mind, the issues of disability naturally connects with those of brain death. In Japan, about 30% Japanese do not think a brain dead patient is dead. For them, a brain dead patient is a most severely disabled person. In the US, more than several thousands of brain dead petients are diagnosed to be dead every year, and their hearts and other organs are removed in the state of brain death (In Japan the number is lower than 10). In terms of disability rights, isn't this the violation of the right to life of brain dead (brain disabled) people? For those who think that brain dead patients are not dead, those patients are "living" disabled people with severe brain damage, such as the total loss of consciousness. I would like to know what American disabled people think about this?

Today's Mainichi Shimbun English version published the following report:

Japanese declared 'brain dead' in U.S., Canada make recovery in Japan

Three Japanese people who lost consciousness while they were in the United States and Canada and were declared brain dead by local doctors made recoveries after being flown back to Japan, an insurance company has revealed. >> Read the entire report

Wow! Isn't this awful? Why don't American bioethicists and activists talk about the issue of brain death as an important ethical issue?

Photo: Night in Osaka

July 20, 2006

Protest by disabled people (Not Dead Yet) in Albany


The most striking scene in the Albany bioethics conference was a protest carried out by disabled activists and their supporters just before the beginning of the conference. (And the next interesting one was the ending of the last symposium.) A group of wheelchair disabled people came into the conference room ten minutes before the opening of the conference, and suddenly began shouting, “Nothing about us without us!” Their voices of protest continued for almost 20 minutes. They were the members of the disabled group, Not Dead Yet, and their supporters. The participants were just sitting and looking at their protest. Then two (four?) persons of the group came the rear part of the room and began talking with the organizers. They were talking just beside the chair I was sitting on. I couldn’t hear their voices clearly, but this was a thrilling experience. Their protest reminds me of the Japanese disabled group, Blue Grass Group (Aoi Shiba no Kai), whose radical protests and direct actions marked the beginning of the Japanese grass roots bioethics movement in the early 1970s.

Anyway, a person from Not Dead Yet was allowed to speak in front of the audience for some minutes. He criticized the framework of the conference. He stressed that speaker(s) from the community of disabled people must be included in this kind of conference. They write in their leaflet:

Bioethicists have continually and deliberately excluded disability advocates and activists from some of the most critical public policy debates of our time even though people with disabilities are critical stakeholders who are directly and personally affected by many bioethics issues. Organizers of the Alden March Bioethics Institute’s Conference on “Bioethics in a Divided Democracy” have brought together bioethicists from the “right” and “left”, but have failed to include the unique perspective of disability rights advocates, including Not Dead Yet........The disability community demands its own place at the table. We do not want public policy decisions about our lives to be made in private without involving us!”

After the person’s speech, the audience burst into applause. The most impressive actor in the conference was not the right or the left, but the disabled. This event made me think that the dichotomy of the conservative and the liberal might not be the adequate framework of the discussion about current bioethical issues. Invited speakers in the conference were professors, medical doctors, lawyers, priests, or politicians, and the majority of them were “non-disabled” Caucasian males in public positions. As Not Dead Yet pointed out, many marginalized people were not included in the speakers. What do you think about this?

A report on the protest by Not Dead Yet was published in This is Not Dead Yet website. Comment appeared on Women's Bioethics Project. See my paper “Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought: A Philosophical Aspect of Independent Living and Bioethics” concerning the Japanese disabled movement.


Photo: Lichtenstein in Osaka, America mura

   -- M.Morioka

July 16, 2006

Bioethics and Politics conference and painless civilization, Albany


The Bioethics and Politics conference is over. Well, it was an interesting conference. There were stimulating presentations and discussions (and of course there were many boring talks). Last night I slept for nine hours. I feel refreshed this morning.

I gave my presentation in the morning of the second day. The room for our Group One was filled with 20-30 people. The coordinator, Professor John Robertson introduced me to the audience saying “Professor Morioka publishes a variety of books, from brain death to why an adult man is sexually attracted to a twelve year old girl…..” Well, a very nice and to the point introduction. Then I started talking about Japanese left-wing bioethics, fundamental sense of security, and painless civilization.

After my talk, several people raised hands and a person asked me to show an example of the “pathology of painless civilization” I mentioned in my talk. I then talked about the story of a house wife who became the state of a living dead because of her wealthy life, but I couldn’t fully reply to his question. A young person in the audience advised the man that he should read the book of an American philosopher in order to understand Morioka’s point. I couldn’t hear the name of the philosopher, but his comment was helpful. Then, Carrie Gordon Earll and John Robertson gave presentations.

After our talks, another young man raised hands and asked us several questions. His question to me was this (probably): Morioka said that “fundamental sense of security” is important for us to fight against utilitarianism; however, there must be something (a more fundamental idea) that supports the “fundamental sense of security.” I felt this was a very good question. I couldn’t reply to his question at that time, instead I asked him why he thinks religion or faith is required for us to be spiritual (because he was also talking about Christianity and faith).

Then James Hughes asked me two questions from the floor: the first is whether Morioka criticizes the act of giving medicine to an ill child who experiences severe pain and suffering; and the second was whether the criticism of painless civilization aims to go back to the past (I couldn’t understand all the points of his question because of my limited English ability. I am sorry, James. But your comment on Marx’s Manifesto was helpful.) I replied that the main point of the criticism of painless civilization is to criticize the driving force in our society which leads us to continue escaping from pain and suffering using every possible technologies; and I don’t wish to go back to the past, instead I wish to dismantle and recreate the current civilization from within, staying inside it. I knew the name of James Hughes because he is the Executive Director of World Transhumanist Association. I had heard his presentation in the previous day. His presentation was also very interesting.

After our session, a person came to me and said that he was a Christian priest but his opinion was very similar to mine, and he added that the dichotomy of conservative and liberal is senseless. And then the young man who had asked me about the fundamental sense of security came to me and said that my presentation was the best in this conference so far. This comment encouraged me a lot. I walked out of the room and took a rest in another room. Then a man walked to me and said my talk was interesting. His name is Eric Racine. I had heard his talk as well in the previous day. We had a chat about his “moderate liberalism” and the possibility of fruitful dialogue between ordinary citizens and specialists, or religious people. In the afternoon session of the same day, I found in the audience the man who mentioned an American philosopher. I asked him about the title of the book. He said his boss was Dr. Albert Jonsen. When I had a chat with him a woman approached me and said my talk was interesting and we shook hands.

Anyway, it became clear that the criticism of painless civilization could intellectually stimulate an American audience. Before the session I met Professor Stuart Youngner. I had met him in Kyoto three years before. I asked him about the schedule of publication of the paper Kinjo-san and I had written two years before. Yesterday I met many people. This was a fruitful conference at least for me. I will write about the impression of the whole conference in the next post.

*For more information see my paper "Painless Civilization and Fundametal Sense of Security"

Link to this post:

Photo: Sakai, Osaka

   -- M.Morioka

July 12, 2006

Culture of life; Albany bioethics conference


I am in a hotel in Albany, NY. It's raining outside. Yesterday and today I received some emails and attached files. The files include the list of speakers and their abstracts. My presentation is scheduled in the Group One on the second day, July 14th. The title of this group is “The Culture of Life.” There will be three presentations: John A. Robertson's “Moving the Mountain: Compromise and the Culture of Life,” Carrie Gordon Earll's “Intolerance or Invitation: Conservative religious voices in bioethics,” and my “How to Reconcile Liberal and Conservative Bioethics: A Japanese Philosopher's View of the American Controversy.” John Robertson is a liberal and Carrie Gordon Earll is a conservative. This session will probably become a very interesting one. It is a pity that I will not be able to hear other speakers' presentations because there are simultaneously five sessions in the morning. The conference organizer said that they would air the recorded videotapes of the presentations on their website, hence, we might be able to see missed group sessions afterwards.

Photo: Sakai, Osaka

   -- M.Morioka

July 08, 2006

Bioethics and Politics, Albany, New York


I am in Albany now. This blog has been updated. Please visit the top and read the newest. 

I am going to Albany, NY, USA, to join the conference, Bioethics and Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy, to be held on July 13-14. You can see the program of the conference on the web. I am not sure when my presentation is scheduled, but anyway I will carry my computer and wait for my turn. I am planning to talk about a comparison between the US and Japan, the concept of "fundamental sense of security," the idea of "painless civilization," and the importance of "philosophy of life," which have been the main topics in this blog. I am not sure whether the audience will have an interest in these topics, because this is a conference about bioethics and "politics," and my presentation is about bioethics and "philosophy". I would hope some people will respond to my presentation and our life studies project. It seems that I am the only person who comes to the conference to give a talk from the Asian region.

Some bloggers have talked about this conference. Visit Women's Bioethics Project and They are thinking that there will be a bloody combat between conservatives and liberals. I don't like this kind of war in the field of bioethics. I would like to give a talk about the importance of philosophy in the age of globalization and terrorism. (Abstract of my talk)

After the conference I will spend a few days in Albany and take a look around the city and colleges. I want to see the Hudson River and the campus of State University of New York. If possible, I will post an entry from Albany.

Photo: Blue sky.

   -- M.Morioka

June 20, 2006

Conservative ethics and the role of religion


I am now thinking about what is "conservative bioethics" in Japan. In the US this term means a kind of ethics that seeks to protect the value of human life, particularly that of fetuses and fertilized eggs, and this ethics is strongly endorsed by Christian circles. In Japan, the ratio of Christians is lower than 1% of the whole population. Christianity does not have enough political power to influence the country's social policies.

In the 1960s and 70s, the Japanese government (led by the Liberal Democratic Party) sought to reduce women's right to abortion (abortion has been considered legal since 1948). The Diet members who emphasized the dignity of fetuses and respect for human life were those who elected by the support of Seichou no Ie, a new religion of Shintoism. In this sense, during this period, we could say Japanese conservative bioethics was supported by Shintoism. Shintoism played a similar role to that of Christianity in the US.

However, we witness a completely different political stuation concerning therapeutic human cloning in the 1990s. While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party sought to approve the production of a cloned human embryo for therapeutic purposes, the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, objected to the production of such an embryo because a human embryo is the "sprout of human life," and we should respect human embryos as much as possible. Here we encounter the reversal of the situation. Respect for human embryos was not proposed by the ruling conservative party, but proposed by the opposition "left-wing" party (Of course we have a variety of discussions over whether the Democratic Party of Japan is "left-wing"). The main reason why the Liberal Democratic Party supported therapeutic human cloning was that it serves Japan's national interests. Religions did not play an important role here. (See The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life)

We might say that "money" played an important role here, and for the Japanese money has become a new "religion." Contemporary Japanese conservative bioethics is motivated by the pursuit of "money." Making money and creating an economically strong nation might be the most important value in Japanese conservative circles.

Related post: Bioethics & Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy

Photo: Restaurant Hokkyokusei, Osaka.

    -- M.Morioka

June 17, 2006

Bioethics & Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy


ASBH summer conference, "Bioethics & Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy," will be held in Albany, New York, USA, July 13-14. Please visit the conference page, then you can find the names of well-known American bioethicists. I have submitted an abstract for this conference, and today I received a letter of invitation from them. I will fly to Albany and give a 20 minute talk. I have not prepared for my presentation at all. The following is the abstract I sent to them:

How to Reconcile Liberal and Conservative Bioethics: A Japanese Philosopher’s View of the American Controversy

Masahiro Morioka (Professor, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan)

It might be interesting to see the current controversy from outside the US. In Japan, where the percentage of Christians is lower than 1% of the whole population, the “conservative” argument, such as the restriction of advanced medical technologies and the ban on selective abortion, has been put forward mainly by “left-wing” academicians, citizen activists and feminists, not by political or religious conservatives. This implies that conservative “wisdom” could also be developed by people outside “conservative” circles.

A highly politicized liberal/conservative dichotomy is fruitless. We should reconcile the both sides. Eric Cohen stresses the importance of searching for “wisdom in those puzzling human situations where wisdom is most needed” (HCR, 36-1, 2006). I totally agree with his statement because this is the role of philosophy in contemporary society, but at the same time, it should be needed to release their wisdom from the framework or dogma of the Judeo-Christian traditions.

We should learn from liberals the values of “liberal society,” where the various ways of life are respected as much as possible. However, we have to be wise enough to see through the long run side-effects caused by selection of human life and enhancement technologies in a free society. I would like to use the term “fundamental sense of security” and think about how to maintain “wisdom” in a pluralistic society.

Well, this is a summary of what I have been thinking about "bioethics and politics," and some of my opinions on this topic are found in my former posts in this blog (Liberal and Conservative bioethics, Genetic enhancement and conservative ethics, etc.). I am not sure whether an American audience will be interested in a presentation made by a Japanese philosopher, but anyway, this will be a great opportunity to send a message of "life studies" to American bioethicists, and participants in the conference. (Continues...)

Photo: A map in my office.

   -- M.Morioka

May 21, 2006

Liberal & conservative bioethics, Ruth Macklin and Eric Cohen, Hastings Center Report


The January-February issue of Hastings Center Report features two articles, "The New Conservatives in Bioethics" by Ruth Macklin and "Conservative Bioethics and the Search for Wisdom" by Eric Cohen. As I wrote in a former post, current American bioethics seems to be divided into two parties, liberal bioethics and conservative bioethics. Actually, theses two articles are worth reading, and both are stimulating.

Ruth Macklin attacks "conservative" bioethicists saying that they use "mean-spirited rhetoric," and they appeal to emotion, sentiment, and intuition, and they use poetic and metaphoric language. Macklin concludes:

[Conservatives] are not bioethicists at all. They are something else -- social critics, perhaps -- who rely on dramatic impact and rhetorical persuation rather than rational argument to convince their readers. (p.42)

In contrast, Eric Cohen tries to defend the conservative viewpoint, stressing that conservatives are not fanatic devotees, but rational people searching for wisdom "in those puzzling human situations where wisdom is most needed" (p.46). It is interesting to me that Cohen clearly states as follows:

conservatives believe that nobody should abort a fetus because of a genetic disability (p.45)

And in the last part of his paper, Cohen severely criticizes liberal's support for the genetic screening of disabled fetuses.

Interestingly, I feel that Ruth Macklin's article is very emotional, and Eric Cohen's article is relatively rationalistic. I am a "left-wing" philosopher in essence, but I sympathize with Cohen's article rather than Macklin's one. In Japan, disabled people's rights have been defended mainly by left-wing academicians and activists, not by conservatives, hence, Cohen's statement sounds interesting to me. But I must confess that I don't agree with his atittudes to abortion and family. I don't understand why he doesn't accept women's right to abortion (except selective one) and the possibility of various types of families. (Cohen admits that most conservatives are "traditional Christians, Jews, and Muslims" (p.46). ) And I would like to know whether conservatives have actually defended the rights of minorities, such as African-Americans and disabled people.

I think it is needed to salvage "wisdom" from conservative bioethics and transplant into the heart of liberal bioethics. What I really want is "wisdom" released from religious dogma. Liberal/conservative dichotomy is fruitless.

On July 13-14, the conference, "Bioethics & Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy" will be held in New York. I would like to read a report of this conference.

Related article: Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought

Photo: A goldfish in a bowl

 -- M.Morioka

May 05, 2006

Genetic enhancement and conservative ethics


The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity announced that they would strongly object to NIH funding of "genetic enhancement" research. I didn't know that there is a researcher who has planned genetic enhancement research and applied to the MIH for research grants. The following is from CBHD website:

The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity strongly denounces the decision by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund a project to develop guidelines for the use of human subjects in genetic enhancement research. The grant, totaling almost three-quarters of a million dollars, is being given to Maxwell Mehlman and Case Law School to promote the genetic re-engineering of human beings for non-therapeutic purposes under the rubric of "enhancement.”

“This is a violation of the spirit of the NIH-sponsored Human Genome Project,” says CBHD Senior Fellow Ben Mitchell. “Providing this grant signals a fundamental and dangerous change in the policy of the NIH, resurrecting the mistaken goals of the eugenics programs in the United States and Europe in the early twentieth century.” (web)

I searched the name "Maxwell Mehlman" on the web and found that he is JD, not MD, and his research is not medical research, but a kind of interdisciplinary research aiming to promote ethical and legal discussions about what regulations should be made if we are to accept genetic enhancement research on human subjects. Case Western Reserve University's website explains as follows:

Researchers will determine whether there are any conditions under which it would be ethical to conduct research on genetic enhancement using human subjects. Based on their findings, the investigators will propose changes in existing rules and regulations to govern research on genetic enhancement using human subjects. (web)

It is clear that Maxwell Mehlman aims to put regulations on genetic enhancement, and approve some kinds of clinical research. (See the abstract of his paper in 2005). I personally object to human genetic enhancement, however, I don't think discussion on the regulation of genetic enhancement should also be refrained from, even if discussion is made using taxpayers funds. What do you think?

By the way, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity is a representative group of "conservative bioethics," which is supported by Christian fundamentalists (I suppose). Their main rivals are, probably,, Hastings Center etc., which represent American "liberal bioethics." But I don't know much about the political scheme of American bioethics. If some of you know better than I, please let us know the details. Personally, I am not conservative or liberal. Such a dichotomy does not suit my philosophy. American bioethics tends to be dichotomous, such as in the debate on abortion, and forces us to choose one of the two sides. This is the limitation of current politicized American bioethics.

See also: Liberal & conservative bioethics, Ruth Macklin and Eric Cohen, Hastings Center Report

Photo: A cafe near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka