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Comparative Study of the History of Bioethics

Masahiro Morioka

1) Proposal
2) History of Bioethics around the World
3) Related Links


1) Proposal

The idea of "bioethics" has spread over the world, but we still don't know how it has developed in each country, and what kinds of topics have been discussed around the world. Topics may include not only biomedical issues but also environmntal issues, cross-cultural analysis of the idea of life, globalization & war, and so on. We would like to know information about them. Please join our research.

Some people say that bioethics began in the USA and has spread around the world, but other people insist that bioethics has existed throughout the ages in every region. Which is right? Probably it depends on the definition of "bioethics."

(1) If we define "bioethics" as a kind of philosophy or ethics of life and death, we can find a great deal of literature from ancient times in every region. From this perspective, "bioethics" can be seen as a contemporary version of philosophy or ethics of life and death.

(2) If we define it as medical ethics, we can also find various ideas on ethics of medicine. There have been European, Chinese, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish, and other medical ethics. We have had a variety of discussions about euthanasia, abortion, healthy life, the use of medication, and so on.

(3) If we define it as environmental ethics, we have also had various traditions throughout the world.

(4) If we define it as the discussion of ethical issues arising from contemporary "advanced biomedical technology," such as organ transplantation, selective abortion, IVF and gene therapy, we can find such discussions from the 1960s to the present.

(5) If we define it as the civil movement that claimed the rights of patients, women, and the members of minority groups, then again, such movements have appeared since the 1960s in many countries.

(6) If we define it as an "academic" research and discussion, the United States of America would probably be one of the earliest countries to have institutionalized it as an academic discipline. Bioethics as an academic discipline emerged from the late 1970s to 1980s in the USA, but what about other countries? I would like to propose a comparative study of the history of bioethics among countries or regions. Many interesting ideas and discussions will probably be found through the research.

I would like to ask you to give us information about the history of bioethics in your country or region. Papers, essays, or even comments are welcome. We would like to know the following points.

(1) The definitions of "bioethics" in your country or region. We want to know not only mainstream ideas, but also minority ideas.

(2) When "bioethics" began and how it has developed.

(3) What kinds of topics have been discussed in each stage.

(4) What alternative ideas to "bioethics" have appeared. For example, what did anthropologists, sociologists, and philosophers argue about the discipline of "bioethics"? What kinds of frustrations have been expressed by them?

(5) How did the word "bioethics" begin to be used? How and by whom was the idea of "bioethics" constructed?

Please send your comments, essays, or papers to EJAIB ( They will be published in EJAIB, and then forwarded to this page. If you prefer to post your comment on this page, please send it to Masahiro Morioka. Your comment will be uploaded here. I will write a report based on the contributors' comments and submit to EJAIB. And if you know any paper, hopefully written in English, that deals with this topic please let us know. This is a preliminary study. Please do not hesitate to join our project.

2) History of Bioethics around the World (in alphabetical order)


Debora Diniz, Dirce Bellezi Guilhem and Volnei Garrafa, Bioethics in Brazil, Bioethics 13:3/4, (1999):244-248. (Printed/Published Material)


Zhang Daqing, Love and the History of Chinese Bioethics.


Kollek, Regine & Feuerstein, Gunter: Bioethics and Antibioethics in Germany: A Sociological Approach. International Journal of Bioethics, 1999, 10(3): 11-20. (Printed/Published Material)

European Perspectives

Henk A.M.J. ten Have and Bert Gordijn, Bioethics in a European Perspective. Kluwer, 2001 (Printed/Published Material)

International Perspectives

Roberto Dell'Oro (Translator), Roberto Dall'Oro (Editor), Corrado Viafora (Editor), History of Bioethics: International Perspectives (Distinguished Research Series). International Scholars Publications, 1996. (Printed/Published Material)


Alireza Bagheri,M.D., A brief History of Medical Ethics in Iran (2003)


Coming soon...


Brief Outline

Masahiro Morioka, Bioethics and Japanese Culture (1995)
Masahiro Morioka, Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan's Fifteen Years of Experience (2001)
Masahiro Morioka, Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought: A Philosophical Aspect of Independent Living and Bioethics (2002)
Masahiro Morioka,The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life


Violette Lindbeck, Biomedical Ethics Around the World. Thailand: Budhism Meets the Western Model, Hastings Center Report December:24-26, 1997. (Printed/Published Material)

United States of America

Arlene Orhon Jech, The History of Bioethics in the United States.
David J. Rothman, Strangers at the Bedside: A History of How Law and Bioethics Transformed Medical Decision Making. Basic Books 1992 (Printed/Published Material)

Albert R. Jonsen, The Birth of Bioethics. Oxford University Press 1998. (Printed/Published Material)
M. L. Tina Stevens, Tina M. L. Stevens, Bioethics in America: Origins and Cultural Politics. Johns Hopkins Univ Pr, 2000. (Printed/Published Material) (Book review)

3) Related Links

Research project on Cultural Issues in Bioethics
See also