The Institute of Oriental Philosophy
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Lecture: "Bioethics in Chinese Culture"

Prof. Ikezawa graduated from The University of Tokyo and earned Ph.D. in philosophy from The University of British Columbia. He currently specializes in Chinese religion, ancestral worship, and death and life studies and also writes many articles on Confucianism. In his lecture, Prof. Ikezawa first introduced the basic concept of bioethics and exemplified the bioethical stream in the United States, Germany and Japan for comparison with that in China.

He said, “A bioethical view first appeared in the United States. Even before the appearance, medical ethics existed for the medical profession in the form of codes. The code expresses that patients should follow the best method of treatment specified by the medical professions. That is to say, medical ethics does not admit the self-determination of patients.” Prof. Ikezawa explained that American bioethics gained academic attention at the time of founding The National Commission in 1970s. It upholds four common principles: ‘respect for persons’ as the supreme principle unlike the medical ethics, then ‘beneficence’, ‘non-maleficence’ and ‘justice’.

Moreover, unlike American bioethics, German bioethics stands on the logic that everything in the universe including human existence is created by someone, which is beyond human understanding. The logic is derived from the religious sense of Christianity that expresses ‘man and woman cannot touch the realm of God’. In addition, Japanese bioethics emphasizes the aspect of engagement and relationship, which shows another unique aspect. As Prof. Ikezawa stressed, these cases tell that the manner of bioethics can differ according to the culture and the traditional background.

In old China, medical ethics was established based on Confucian ethic and Buddhist views. The medical treatment was generally justified by 仁 (ren, humanity or benevolence as a fundamental virtue) and non-killing which a Confucian scholar/doctor should realize. Prof. Ikezawa discussed, “Still today in China, doctors are not professionalized but controlled by the government. It was Prof. Qiu Renzong who first implanted concepts of American bioethics in China as a scientist. He emphasizes a need to establish a certain system which considers value for ‘others and society’. In comparison with American bioethics, Chinese bioethics is more concerned about the reproduction. It mattered to the government how ethically it should account for its reproductive policy. Therefore, Prof. Qiu upholds bioethics based on a sense that a human is defined as contributive being to a society.” Prof. Ikezawa concluded that 全体 (quan ti, all) is a key concept of Chinese bioethics and its meaning varies from people to a nation. He said, “The term may have been used in the Confucian way, but more important is to understand in which context the term is used.”

Organizer: The Institute of Oriental Philosophy
Lecturer: Prof. Masaru Ikezawa (Professor, The University of Tokyo / Director, Center for Death and Life Studies and Practical Ethics)
Venue: TKP Ichigaya Conference Center (Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo)
Date: December 5, 2017

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