October 20, 2005

Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Schindler (Sempo Sugihara)


October 11th, the TV drama, Visas for Six Thousand People's Lives: Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese Schindler, was aired on Yomiuri Television. The story was really moving. Sempo (Chiune Sempo) Sugihara was born in 1900 in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. In 1939, Sempo was sent to Lithuania as consul. One morning in 1940, Sempo and his family were surprised at a number of Jewish refugees gathering at the gate of the Japanese Embassy. They asked him to issue transit visas to pass through Japan because other countries refused to issue any visas to the Jews. Sempo wondered if he could issues visas, and asked the Japanese government, however, they firmly rejected Sempo's proposal. It became clear that issuing visas was contrary to the policy of the Japanese government, and that if he did he might lose his job as a diplomat. But, in front of the gate there were a number of Jewish people waiting for transit visas. They might lose their lives if they do not get visas.

After a few days of hesitation, he finally decided to issue transit visas to them. He started to issue a number of visas to the Jews, day and night, with the help of his secretary and his wife. Soon, the Russian police came to the Embassy and forced him to get out of the building. He and his family stayed at a hotel, and continued to issue visas. Many Jews gathered around the hotel. Then he was forced to get out of Lithuania. On the last day, on the platform in front of the train he still continued issuing. He wrote and wrote and wrote. The number of visas he wrote was more than 3 thousand, and almost 6 thousand Jewish people's lives were saved. He is said to have written more than 300 visas a day. Those Jews were called Sugihara Survivers today.

After the end of World War II, Sugihara was fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was 47 years old (the same age as me...). He spent the rest of his life quietly at home doing some translation works. One day in 1969, a Jewish man who was saved by Sempo, came to meet him. This man had long been trying to find him, and finally found Sempo's house. They met, and Sempo knew for the first time the people he issued visas to were alive in Israel. In 1985, he was recognized as "Rightous among the nations" in Israel. He died next year peacefully.

Because Sempo kept silence after the war, his achievements had not been known to the Japanese, and the world audience, until recently. Probably, many people who watched this TV program got to know Sempo and what he did during the war for the first time. This was a really good TV drama.

I remember that in a bioethics meeting held in Tokyo in the early 1990s, Frank Leavitt, a philosopher from Israel, talked about Sempo Sugihara before his academic presentation. At that time I did not know anything about Sempo. Many Japanese audience would have been the same.

About Sempo Chiune Sugihara, visit the article at Jewish Virtual Library. If you read Japanese Wiki will be helpful.

See the comment in AmbivaBlog:

I didn't know Raoul Wallenberg either....

Postscript 2:
The difference between Sempo Sugihara and Chiune Sugihara:

You might wonder why he has two names, Sempo and Chiune. His real name is Chiune Sugihara. But "Chiune" was difficult for European people to correctly pronounce, hence, he proposed to call himself "Sempo," which was another way of pronouncing the Chinese characters of his first name.

Actually, it is difficult for Japanese people to guess the pronunciation "Chi-une" when seeing the Chinese characters of his first name.

Photo: Kawachi ondo (Kawachi dance song) in Autumn festival, Osaka.

 -- M.Morioka

September 06, 2005

East-West dichotomy


Today I retyped the whole text of my paper "Cross-cultural Approaches to the Philosophy of Life in the Contemporary World" and uploaded to the website. This paper was written and presented at a conference at Leiden University, Netherland, 2002, and published in 2004. Because it was presented three years ago, I don't totally agree now with what I said in the paper, especially the second half of it, but anyway this might be helpful to those who are frustrated with current "bioethics" and philosophy.

In the first part of the paper, I discussed the East/West dichotomy frequently found in the litereture of bioethics, especially written by scholars in Japan, China, Korea and other Asian countries. They stress the importance of their own cultural and religious traditions, and sometimes even go on to say that their own tradition IS superior to the European/American one. Others say that they need special values different from Western values in bioethics. I heard the words "Asian values" many times in international conferences held in Japan.

I criticized their East/West dichotomy as follows.

In the bioethics literature, there are many examples of the East/West dichotomy and its variations, but this is the trap we sometimes falls into when discussing the cultural dimensions of bioethics. (p.183)

One of the biggest problems with this kind of dichotomy is that it ignores a variety of values, ideas, and movements inside a culture or an area. (p.184)

As is evident here, there are a variety of values and ideas in a culture or an area, and in addition, it becomes clear that “Asia” and “the West” share lots of ideas and values on life and death. The East/West dichotomy oversimplifies this internal variation and neglects the common cultural heritage that many people share in various areas around the world. (p.185)

If you want to know the detailed discussion please read the first half of my paper. I thought what I said was a kind of common sense among scholars, hence my discussion contained nothing new, however this was not the case at least in Japan. I don't know whether similar discussions can be found in Europe or America.

Of course, in the recent post-colonial context, the "universal" approach, which looks contrary to the East/West dichotomy, is also considered to be dubious and arrogant because such "universality" itself has been historically created by Western colonialism. Here we come back to the starting point. Probably there are no static conclusions about this problem. Very difficult.

Photo: Night at Kyoto

 -- M.Morioka

July 27, 2005

Science of people directly involved


In the previous entry I wrote that nursing care plays an important role not only in a clinical setting but also in the discussion of brain death, and this was the main theme of Chapter 7 of Brain Dead Person just uploaded to the website. In addition to that, I stressed that the philosophy of nursing may become a source of inspiration when creating a new kind of science in the future. One of the most important characteristics of nursing would be to focus on caring toward irreplaceability: irreplaceability of human life, that of human relationships, and that of time and space family members share in a hospital.

And I believe that this science will be science based on the perspective of people directly involved. "People directly involved" is a translation of the Japanese "toujisha." In the case of brain death, the patient's family are those people, and nurses would be among them in a sense.

Science from the position of an onlooker has matured independently in spite of many problems. But science from the position of someone directly involved has not even taken shape yet. This new kind of science is to be found where ethical problems of medicine are being formed, like none other than those discussed throughout this book. Science from the position from an onlooker was formed in modern Europe, with astronomy at its heart; staring up at (looking on) the distant stars in the night sky from the earth. Modern medicine is medicine that has adopted this into its essence. Science from the position of those directly involved will probably be formed with modern medicine at its heart, after many people have been forced to become directly involved through matters of life and death. It will become science that constantly focuses on irreplaceability from the standpoint of someone directly involved. I think this idea will, in places of medical treatment, slowly germinate between people who perform nursing care of “irreplaceable” life. (Brain Dead Person, p.165)

By the way, the translations of Chapter 1, 2, 5, and 7 were finished. I am going to unite them and make a free PDF file, "Brain Dead Person Abridged Edition." This will be a handy digital book for those who are interested in life studies and Japanese bioethics.

Photo: Ryukoku University, Kyoto

 -- M.Morioka

July 22, 2005

Philosophy of nursing care


"Efficiency and Irreplaceability", the translation of Chpater 7 of Brain Dead Person, was uploaded. In this chapter I discussed the importance of the irreplaceability of human life, and pointed out that modern science tends to overlook this aspect of reality. It may sound strange that a discussion of brain death leads us to a philosophical analysis of irreplaceability, however, through the analysis of the nursing care of brain dead persons in this book we came to realize that the essence of nursing lies in respect for the irreplaceability of human life, and this is one of the most important points found in ethics of brain death and organ transplants.

Irreplaceable things, are in other words, things that you can never get back. A person’s life is the same. Certainly nothing can take the place of someone’s life. If a life is lost then it can never be taken back. Each moment of our life cannot be taken back. Nothing can take the place of the moments in our life; they are a continuous flow of once-only events. The irreplaceability of each moment of our life makes up the irreplaceability of our life itself. I think that respecting this kind of “irreplaceability” is the essence of nursing. (...) Therefore “medical treatment as nursing” is medical treatment that has the primary goal of respecting that which is irreplaceable. (Brain Dead Person pp.157-158)

Throughout this book I stressed the importance of "nursing care" of a brain dead person in a hospital. It may be unusual for an author of ethics of brain death to devote much space to the discussion of "nursing," however, it was this point that many Japanese readers of this book felt great sympathy for. Probably there are no books on brain death and organ transplants that may contain chapters of this kind. In Japan a lot of nurses and professors of nursing have supported the arguments of this book because they found nursing playing an important role in the ethical discussion of brain death.

And I reconsidered the principle of natural science and medicine from the viewpoint of nursing in the last part of this chapter.

I am going to write about it in the next entry.

Photo: Priority seats, Itami Airport, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

July 09, 2005

Life Studies for Beginners


A new book, Life Studies for Beginners , was published this week. You can find one in major bookstores around Japan. This is a selection of my public lectures from the late 1990s to the year before last. Since every chapter is based on an introductory lecture for ordinary people and college students, it became, as a result, a handy book for beginners on life studies in general. This book deals with such themes as care for terminal patients, the relationship between parents and children, conditional love, painless civilization, selective abortion, feminism, eugenic thought and disability, and so on.

This is my first experience to write a book from transcriptions of public lectures. It was tough work to rewrite a transcripted text into a clear and simple one. I rewrote the whole text at least five times. Spoken words are very different from written words in essense. This is extremely interesting.

I don't plan to translate this book into English, but if some of you want to read in English, I may try.

Anyway, the translations of Chapter 7 of Brain Dead Person, and the first section of Chapter 2 of The Insensitive Man were completed. I will upload them soon.

Photo: Cover of Life Studies for Beginners

 -- M.Morioka

May 21, 2005

Narrative approach


The first meeting on life studies at Kanazawa city was over. The meeting was successful. We had a lot of discussions on the issues of life studies. During the discussion I found some very important topics for our future research. And after that meeting I have been re-examining the definition and core concepts of life studies I had written on the life studies page.

One of the most interesting things at the meeting was that we spent the whole two days for the self-introductions of the members. All of us talked about ourselves, why we were there, and their own relationships with life studies. We discussed "narrative approach" to life studies as one of the topics at the meeting, but in fact, the meeting itself was, in a sense, a "narrative based" meeting. Very interesting. At our meeting, talking about why we were here was considered very important for all of us. We reconfirmed the importance of "narrative approach" in life studies. But on the other hand, we should keep in mind that in narrative approach everything can be interpreted as a "narrative" or a "story." A theory that explains everything is not a theory at all. Narrative approach is very attractive, but we have to be deliberate in using it in our research.

I think of rewriting the denifition of life studies in the near future. Life studies is evolving. Please wait for a new description of life studies on the life studies page.

Photo: A statue in the garden of Metropolitan Government Office

 -- M.Morioka

May 13, 2005

Principle of life studies


We are going to have the first meeting on life studies at Kanazawa city, on May 14 and 15. This is the first gathering of this kind. This is a closed meeting because we prefer to talk about issues of life, death, and nature, frankly and in a relaxed atmosphere. Many of the members are graduate students who are interested in life studies. Today I was writing the handouts of my presentation.

Life studies is a very new research field. I coined the word in 1988, and I have published several books on it in Japanese. Hence, people who are interested in the topics of bioethics and contemporary philosphy sometimes know the word "life studies," but they usually don't know what life studies is at all. This is because I was not able to give a clear definition of "life studies" until recently, so I presume many readers of my books would have been frustrated so far.

I wrote the article, "What is life studies?" on INLS website some years ago and revised a year and half ago. However, I will have to rewrite it completely based on my presentations tomorrow at Kanazawa. And I am planning to write a paper on the outline of life studies in a Japanese journal, and translate it to English by the end of this year. Then, you will be able to know "what life studies is" more clearly. I hope this translated paper will attract international readers and more people are going to join our life studies movement.

Tomorrow I will talk about the outline of the life studies approach, and go on to talk about "what is 'unregretable life'? ", "the importance of never thinking of oneself as an exception in research" , "the defference of life studies and religion" and so on, which are some of the most important topics of life studies.

By the way, my paper written almost three years ago, "Cross-cultural Approaches to the Philosophy of Life in the Comtemporary World: From Bioethics to Life Studies" was published in the book, Genomics in Asia: A Clash of Bioethical Interests?, edited by Margaret Sleeboom, Kegan Paul, 2004. In this paper I talked about life studies, but it should be updated now. I will upload this paper soon.

Photo: Kenzo Tange's Building, from another angle.

 -- M.Morioka

March 14, 2005

Feminist philosophy of abortion and bioethics


I have posted some comments on a Japanese women's liberation activist, Mitsu Tanaka, and her philosophy of abortion. I published a very short essay in English, and a close examination of her works in my book written in Japanese. Now I am writing a new paper on feminist philosophies of abortion in women's lib movement in Japan in 1970s. I am thinking of adding some more translations of Mitsu Tanaka's words at that time.

I received an email from a woman who uploaded on her blog her own experience of abortion and her contemplation of the meaning of her experience. Her blog, Ambivablog, is here. Please visit and read it.

By the way, the following is an excerpt from the manuscript I am now writing:

Tanaka thinks that a woman who chooses abortion sways between two kinds of honest feelings, that is, the honest feeling that it is her right to abort a fetus, and the honest feeling that if she chooses abortion she becomes a fetus killer. She is thrown into the state of the swaying between these two honest feelings. Tanaka stresses that women should start from this "sway of the confused self" because this sway of the confused self leads us to encounter other people who are also swaying between other types of honest feelings in the midst of their lives. The real encounter is made possible, Tanaka thinks, only between people who are swaying and suffering between contradictory honest feelings. For Tanaka, the important thing is not to solve the dilemma but to live with it.

Tanaka rejects the dichotomy of pro-choice/pro-life, and persists in thinking just between them. She stresses that women must be able to choice abortion, but she also thinks that women do not have the "right" to abortion. Her philosophy is very fascinating and stimulating. Her thought created, in a sense, the foundation of Japanese bioethical thoughts in the 1970s together with disabled activists who were opposing a bill admitting selective abortion (See this paper).

I will submit the paper in progress to a journal, and when published I will upload it to the INLS website.

This topic is really interesting and important especially in the age of new eugenics which we are now entering.

Photo: Roppongi Hills

 -- M.Morioka

March 07, 2005

Vladimir Jankélévitch, La Mort (Death)


As I wrote in the previous entry, I distinguished among three concepts in the book, Brain Dead Person, Chapter 5: namely, "my death", "the death of a person familiar to me", and "the death of a person unfamiliar to me." And I stressed that these three concepts have completely different meanings to us. Concerning the precise differences I would like you to read the translated text, here I want to add one thing. I am not the first philosopher who distinguished these concepts. Vladimir Jankélévitch, a French philosopher, talked about them in his book, La Mort (Death), 1966. His description of death is philosophical and poetic. I read his book in Japanese translation when I was a colloge student, and I was very impressed with his analysis. If you are interested in Chapter 5 of Brain Dead Preson, I would strongly advise you to read Jankélévitch.

By the way, a couple of book reviews of The Insensitive Man appeared in newspapers this week. I will add them to the above page soon.

Photo: The entrance of a hotel.

 -- M.Morioka

February 25, 2005

Death of a person familiar to me


The translation of Chapter 5 of Brain Dead Person was uploded today. In this chapter I distinguished among three concepts: "my death", "the death of a person familiar to me", and "the death of a person unfamiliar to me." Hence the question to ask should be like this:

1) Is my brain death my death?
2) Is the brain death of a person familiar to me his or her death?
3) Is the brain death of a person unfamiliar to me his or her death?

But why these questions? Please read the text for the answer.

Anyway, now we have the translations of Ch.1, 2, and 5 so far. The reason why we skipped Ch.3 and 4 is that they are a little out of date. (Remember that this book was published in 1989, more than 15 years ago). Instead, Ch.1, 2, and 5 are still fresh and impressive to English readers, I believe.

And I added a summary to The Insensitive Man page. It might be interesting to visit and read it. This week the second printing will appear in bookstores. The total has been 25,000 copies to date. Great.

Photo: Yasumasa Morimura's Sunflower

 -- M.Morioka

January 20, 2005

Grief support: system and ethics


The following is the second part of my comment on Ann Mongoven's paper, "Giving in Grief: Perspectives of Hospital Chaplains on Organ Donation." (the first part:Jan.5).

According to Mongoven, many chaplains stressed that religious images and concepts (in Cristianity) might decrease the number of donation because people sometimes believe in "resurrection" (the occasion on which all dead people will be brought back to life at the end of the world). Hence "these Christians might have a special reluctance to "mutilate" the body" (p.181).

Mongoven writes:

"The chaplains repeated acknowledgment that some religious imagery, including imagery within culturally prevalent religious traditions, may be in tension with organ donation -- a striking observation in light of current policy initiatives" (p.182).

This comment is very interesting to me because in Japan many scholars have repeated that in Europe and the USA the majority of people believe in Christianity, hence, they show little reluctance to accept brain death and organ transplantation, contrary to the Japanese. Mongoven's paper seems to refute this opinion. This teaches us that cross-cultural comparison should not be made by mere "impression"....

Mongoven points out that there is a tension in the mind of chaplains, the tension between "grief support to the families" and "the outcome -- family consent to the donation." All the chaplains do not think that their main role is to increase the number of donation, but of course they know the number of donation might increase by a sensitive grief support. This tension is inevitable, but "several noted that they felt the recognized tension was itself good" (p.193).

Mongoven went on to imply that the refinement of organ procurement system might lead to the instrumentalization of "grief support to the families" by chaplains or by specialists, because good grief support may enlarge the consent rate of the families, but it also means that grief support is to be counted as a mere "instrument" of the system. I think this is the most important point of her paper. I contemplated similar problems in the book Painless Civilization. I think this is one of the most important philosophical problems of contemporary civilization.

Photo: "Coffee made in a milk factory".

 -- M.Morioka

January 05, 2005

Grief support for families, organ transplants


In Chapter 2 of Brain Dead Person I stressed that the first thing the medical staff in the ICU should do in terms of ethics when brain death is diagnosed is to care for the family members who are attending the brain dead patient. In 1989, there was very few literature that dealt with psychological care for the family in trems of bioethics.

I have read Ann Mongoven's paper, "Giving in Grief: Perspectives of Hospital Chaplains on Organ Donation" (in Caring Well, D.H.Smith, 2000) and found it very interesting because she approaches the same topic from a different angle.

She interviewed hospital chaplains who had experience of approaching the family of a brain dead patient. She found that the goal of the chaplains was not necessarily to acquire organs. Their ultimate goal was to provide the family with grief support. "All of the chaplains interviewed located their perceived role in organ donation within a broader context of grief support" (p.174). What I proposed in the book, Brain Dead Person Ch.2 was also a kind of grief support, and I went on to stress that this grief support and the family's acceptance of the death of the patient should be a necessary condition of organ transplants from a brain dead patient. Mongoven didn't say the latter, but her paper succeeded in fully illustrating the various aspects of chaplains' approaches. "They emphasized the need for "time", questions of "timing", and "sensitivity to the process" in their comments......... Repeatedly mentioned "big little things" included a quiet, private place for the family, moments when they were left alone....." (p.178).

The concept, "quiet, private place and moments" was emphasized in Brain Dead Person too, and welcomed by professionals at that time. I was moved to see the same phrase appear in the chaplains' words in the US.

(To be continued..)

Photo: Kadomatsu: New Year ornament

 -- M.Morioka

December 24, 2004

Discipline & Punish, Foucault, Michel, panopticon


One of the most important characteristics of Chapter 2 of Brain Dead Person is that the function of "intensive care unit" is discussed in terms of ethics. This was because I believed that the creation of a "brain dead person" is closely connected to the function of "intensive care unit" in a hospital.

In this chapter I discussed that an intensive care unit looks like a "panopticon" that was described by J. Bentham, and later by Michel Foucault in his "Discipline & Punish : The Birth of the Prison."

I wrote in my book as follows:

"The beds have been separated with walls or curtains between them. Fellow patients have had their lines of sight entirely cut off. However, it has been made possible to see all of the patients from the nurses’ station in the very center. Here the intense gaze of those supervising falls on all those being supervised. This one central watchtower is designed to allow supervision of many small rooms from one place.
    This looks incredibly similar to the structure of the modern European thinker Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon” -- a design for a prison. This was designed so that all the movements of the inmates could be seen from a central watchtower. The ICU is at the forefront of contemporary medicine, which started in Europe, and so it is of deep significance that the model of the Panopticon reappears here. Perhaps only a modern gaze fills the ICU. " (See this page)

When this book was published in 1989, some critics said that this idea was very interesting. Do you have any comments about the above idea?

Photo: No comment

 -- M.Morioka

December 18, 2004

Psychological care of the family


The translation of Chapter 2 of Brain Dead Person (1989) was finally finished. Translation was made by Alex Jones, thank you Alex!

Chapter 2 (translation here) is the most important part of this book. There I introduced the idea "care of the sphere." Sphere means the sphere of human relationships surrounding a brain dead person in a hospital. In the intensive care unit in a hospital the family of a brain dead person try to accept the death of the patient by caring for the patient (at least in Japan where brain death does not necessarily mean death). In some cases they accept, but in other cases they don't accept or refuse the idea of brain death. In this chapter I proposed doctors and nurses to "help the family to attend the brain dead person." Please read the text for details.

This book was published in 1989, and probably this was the first book that stressed the importance of the care for the family who are attending the brain dead person (not for harvesting organs but for the psychological care of the family). Do you know any other materials in English?

Anyway, it was 15 years ago. I was 30 years old when I published this book. Time flies.

Photo: Surutto-chan at Osaka Subway

 -- M.Morioka