The Conflict Between the Advancement of
Medical Science and Technology and
Traditional Chinese Medical Ethics
Da-Pu Shi and Lin Yu
From the time of Hippocrates' liberation of medicine from superstition and magic to modern developments such as Watson and Crick's discovery of the double helix, the progress of medical science has been one characterized by difficulties and struggle. One of the central arenas in which this struggle transpires has been and continues to concern the complex ethical issues which arise both within medical science and the clinical applications of that science. Medical ethics has developed as a specialized sub-field within the broader scope of modern ethics. As a sub-field it has its own areas of autonomy but in the end it can never be separated from questions of general morality, traditional values and the various forms of society and social life. In fact, it seems clear that the basic motivation behind medicine is itself a matter of ethics, working out of and giving expression to some of a culture's most lofty ideals, such as helping the weak, the frail, and the sick among us. Medicine as a general practice has traditionally been viewed as 'doing good for others'. This is no less true in the contemporary situation than it was in the past. Advanced medical technology and practice is a vivid modern expression of the highest ideals of a society. However, as medicine has grown into the mature science and practice that it is today, with increasing frequency it finds itself at odds with traditional values and social practices. We find conflicts between the technical ability to do something and the question of whether we have the right to do it.