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An Outline of the History of Bioethics in Japan

Masahiro Morioka

In Japan, bioethics as (1)(2)(3) [See Previous Page] has existed from ancient times. The discussion of ethical issues arising from contemporary "advanced biomedical technology" began in 1968 when organ transplantation from a (pseudo) brain dead person was performed. In 1972, the Eugenic Protection Law Revision Bill was presented to the Diet, and ethics of selective abortion after amniocentesis began a heated political issue. In this year, women's liberation groups and a disabled group started movement against the revision, and they discussed a number of "bioethical" issues, though they did not use the word "bioethics." They discovered the problem of our "inner eugenic thought," which has become one of the main topics in today's Japanese bioethics. Hence, bioethics as (4)(5) began in the early 1970s in Japan, and in my view the crucial year was 1972.

Academic research started in the mid-1980s and we "imported" bioethics literature from English books and journals. Japanese Association for Bioethics was established in 1988. Academic Books and papers on bioethics began to emerge in this period. Hence, bioethics as (6) is considered to have begun in the late 1980s in Japan. It is interesting that the criticism of "bioethics as an academic discipline" has existed from the beginning. Some citizen groups have said that bioethics is a paradigm that only serves to justify the desire of scientists and people of power. (It is interesting that the subtitle of my first book, one of the first academic books on bioethics, published in 1988, was "Beyond Bioethics.") It is important to explore alternative ideas to "bioethics as an academic discipline" in each country. It should also be noted that the journal of Eubios Ethics Institute was first published in 1991 at Tsukuba, Japan, and we had annual TRT international conferences there in 1990s.

For more details see:

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