Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

Introduction

In December 2003, the research group “Kulturübergreifende Bioethik” (Culture-transcending Bioethics), sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG), held an international symposium on “Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning” at Ruhr University Bochum. The symposium brought together leading bioethics scholars from Asia, Africa and the West to address an urgent bioethical question within the context of different cultural, religious and regional settings and against the background of globalising biotechnology. These scholars were invited to attend the symposium not only in their capacity as reputed bioethicists of the different countries and organisations but also because they are actively involved in political decision making on both the national and international level.

The symposium was thus meant to explore on a cross-cultural level the problems and opportunities of global bioethics and of global regulations in light of the rapid world-wide advances in biotechnology. The present volume contains a number of articles based on the papers presented at the conference and revised in the light of recent developments and additional essays by members of the research group “Culturetranscending Bioethics.” Together they give an overview, an analysis and an evaluation of present positions and tendencies in the international discussions on human cloning.

The research group “Culture-transcending Bioethics,” which comprises a number of individual projects working together in a combination of regional, cultural, religious and systematic approaches (see www.rub.de/kbe), proceeds from the assumption that a global agreement in bioethics cannot be achieved without a critical understanding of different cultures and a common global discourse on equal terms. The predominance of the Western influence does not reflect the multitude of voices.

“Culture-transcending bioethics” includes empirical research and comparison as methodical steps, but in the final analysis it explores the conditions and opportunities for a trans-cultural, international understanding and consensus, and, on this basis, for a global regulation of fundamental ethical issues - inasmuch as there is agreement about what these fundamental issues are in the first place. This is an important topic in itself, as can be shown by the example of human cloning. Still there are a number of obvious reasons for such a global perspective in bioethics.

The first of these is that due to global migration, countries have become increasingly multicultural. In Germany, for instance, the relationship between doctors and patients is no longer based almost exclusively on a common system of values as it was in the past, but it has to take into account, for example, the beliefs of the growing Islamic community.

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