Beyond a Western Bioethics: Voices from the Developing World

Beyond a Western Bioethics: Voices from the Developing World

Beyond a Western Bioethics: Voices from the Developing World

Beyond a Western Bioethics: Voices from the Developing World


In Beyond a Western Bioethics, physicians Angeles Tan Alora and Josephine M. Lumitao join eight other contributors to provide a comprehensive exploration of bioethical issues outside of the dominant American and western European model. Using the Philippines as a case study, they address how a developing country's economy, religion, and culture affect the bioethical landscape for doctors, patients, families, and the society as a whole.

American principles of medical ethics assume the primacy of individual autonomy, the importance of truth-telling, and secular standards of justice and morality. In the Philippines, these standards are often at odds with a culture in which family relationships take precedence over individualism, and ideas of community, friendship, and religion can deeply influence personal behavior. Pervasive poverty further complicates the equation. Contributors move from a general discussion of the moral vision informing health care decisions in the Philippines to an exploration of a wide range of specific cases: family planning, care of the elderly, organ transplants, death and dying, medical research, AIDS care, doctor-patient relationships, informed consent, and the allocation of scarce health-care resources.

Written for both students and professionals, the book provides a much-needed perspective on how medical ethics are practiced in a developing nation, and it successfully challenges the wisdom of global bioethical standards that do not account for local cultural and economic differences.


Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O. P.

The study of bioethics reveals an apparent disparity in application of bioethical principles in the West (the United States and Europe) and in the East (Asia). the secular humanist bioethics that is predominant in the West, which attempts to address complex bioethical issues in a pluralistic society, presents difficulties in a health care setting immersed in a culture deeply rooted in a long religious tradition. Principles of autonomy and justice are differently applied in a culture in which family is a primary value, interdependence an accepted norm, and poverty affects the majority of the population. Hence, the application of Western bioethical principles in the Asian backdrop has been inadequate.

The need to express the reality of this difference was the impetus for this publication. This book is a product of the collective thoughts and reflections of Filipino mentors and students, seriously inclined toward the study of bioethics, who have undergone immersion in poor Filipino communities. Under the guidance of Dr. H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., these bioethics enthusiasts gathered in reflective discussions and sharing of their individual insights on bioethical issues in the Philippine context. All of them have been directly responsible for providing health care as physicians, nurses, or pastoral workers to less fortunate Filipinos. They have been involved with the South East Asian Center for Bioethics (SEACB). seacb was an informal study group in the early 1980s; it evolved into a formal Center after the 1987 visit of the International Federation of Catholic Universities Bioethics Group, headed by Dr. Engelhardt and J. Callus Harvey.

Several articles exploring bioethics in the Asian reality have been published in various journals and other publications. This volume, which is the fruit of the collaborative efforts of promising Filipino bioethicists, is one of the first published books on this subject. It is hoped that this volume will contribute to the growing awareness of Asians and Filipinos, in particular, of the significance of the field of bioethics.

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