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

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

Human Cloning as a Challenge to
Traditional Health Care Cultures

Ilhan Ilkilic

Abstract: There is almost no bioethical discussion today in which the
meaning and importance of culture is not mentioned. However, the nor-
mative and practical implications for moral judgements and a successful
life in a pluralistic society are seldom discussed and certainly not concep-
tualised. This article first discusses a number of essential changes in our
understanding of health and sickness as well as in medical thinking and
practice in the wake of new developments in medical technology. It then
considers what these changes mean for a multicultural society and ad-
dresses the challenge that new developments in bio-medicine such as stem
cell research and reproductive and therapeutic cloning pose for both the
individual and for society. Finally, some practical suggestions are formu-
lated for dealing with these bioethical problems in a pluralistic society
and consideration is given to the possible role and significance of health
literacy.

Keywords: Concept of health, Multicultural society, Health literacy,
Health communication.


1. Identity and Plurality in Medical Traditions

The history of medicine bears witness to the fact that medical knowledge, health care rules and practices, and therapeutic strategies neither emerged nor were applied and developed in isolation within individual cultures. Medical historians tell of a relatively early continuous exchange of ideas and knowledge between cultures in the field of medicine. An example is the astonishing similarity of approaches to humoral physiology in ancient Egyptian, Indian and Greek medicine, as well as their adoption and further development in the Islamic Middle Ages and their influence on Western Christian medicine up to the nineteenth century.1

The well-known Greek historian Herodotus (fifth century B.C.) and, some centuries later, the Greek historian Diodorus (first century B.C.) made significant contributions to the transfer of medical knowledge. In their works they give enthusiastic accounts of Egyptian health rules and methods for preventing and treating illness.2 Hippocrates of Cos (460 - 377 B.C.) and Galen of Pergamon (129 - 199 A.D.) are two of the most important Greek physicians who, through their works or works attributed to

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