Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Adapting the Principles of Biomedical Ethics to Islamic Principles and Values in the Context of Public Health Policy

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Adapting the Principles of Biomedical Ethics to Islamic Principles and Values in the Context of Public Health Policy

Article excerpt


Public health ethics (PHE) is a new field of bioethics that focuses on population health. Some public health interventions are counted as a threat to individual autonomy, privacy and confidentiality. As a political responsibility, at a minimum, the government commits to protect population health, which requires collective effort and cannot be achieved with an individual acting alone. PHE connects overlapping fields of political, moral and social philosophy. This general philosophy provides a moral basis and identifies a set of limitations in the laws, policies and practices of health systems. PHE as a normative discipline can provide a framework for exploring the fundamental moral values which define the relationships and duties of personal, governmental and social institutions in the realm of public health (PH). It can also provide some ways in which to solve conflicts occurring among moral values (Childress 2015, 5). Various moral theories can give a different shape to the PHE framework. For example, in consequentialist theories, policy or action that will result in the best outcomes is morally right; in utilitarianism - a widely used theory in health policy, the only value is to maximize the utility (Childress and Bernheim 2015, 23).

In the Islamic tradition, the laws and principles are derived from a divine source and are specified in the sharia. Thus, the foundations of ethics cannot be separated from religion. With the revival of the revelation-based rational thought, a trans-cultural system can be created to assist human in the assessment of bioethical problems. This study intends to adapt the principles of bioethics to the Islamic principles and values in the context of public health. It thus tries to elucidate if the application of the principles of PHE is an appropriate system or approach to be used in a Muslim community. It culturally helps to optimize health care delivery.

1.1. Methods

The present study uses the method of immanent critique. Therefore, it not only attempts to place the research issue in its proper context but it also examines its epistemic base. This technique has a theoreticaloperational approach that puts the relevant norms in practice (Stahl Titus 2013, 7).

1.2. Foundations

The basis of this study is a common moral language between Islamic and secular ethics. According to epistemological foundations, the main foundations of secularism are rationalism, scientism, and humanism (Aderyani and Kiani 2015, 37). Human dignity is an intrinsic quality and the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that explains the purely secular character of the Universal Declaration (Hughes 2011, 1). This fundamental value emphasizes that human beings, regardless of their external features such as color, race, language, social class, religion, nationality etc., should be respected. God expresses his preference for the human being over other creatures in the Qur'an as follows: "Indeed, we have honored the children of Adam and carried forth them on land and sea and we provided them a variety of good things and preferred them on many creatures".

Islam, as a rich scholarly tradition, has its own set of principles that can be successfully utilized. The principles of Islamic jurisprudence (Usul al fiqh) is a set of principles by means of which Muslim jurists deduce legal rules from the foundational sources of Islamic law, Qur'an and the hadith (the sayings of the Islam Prophet). Moreover, the jurists utilize the consensus of the Muslim scholars for making a decision regarding a particular issue (Ijma) and analogical reasoning (Qiyas) by Sunni Muslims or reason (Aql) by Shiite Muslims (Mustafa 2013, 479). Thus, the present study examines the conformity of the principles and norms of Islamic jurisprudence with the principles and norms of PHE.

2.Public health as a common good

Generally, health policy-makers think about public health as a public good and the first consideration is benefit produced in conjunction with other connected moral considerations including avoidance, prevention and elimination of harm, and the maximum balance of benefits against the program burdens (Childress and Bernheim 2015, 9; Abbasi et al. …

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