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Introduction to the Project on Bioethics for Informed Choices - page 29 / 115

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Bioethics Education559

has become inevitable, to the extent that we cannot bridge this gap we may not be able to dispel the sense of incongruity that clings to bioethics. What on earth can be done about this absurdity, as we swing back and forth between “man” and “person”, sometimes treating as man (the animal), less than a person, then again, sometimes granting dignity. Formerly in Japan the inescapable sufferings of man, the pains of birth, ageing, disease and death were known as the four afflictions, and people labored long and hard to accept their fate as living creatures, through Buddhist views on life and death. Here in a way, “clear vision, causing resignation” is on display. In this sense the recent trend towards the right of self-determination is an ambitious attempt to smash out of this old framework. Even so, can we really claim that here the gap between biology-based views of life and human personality-based views life has been filled in? It is possible to consider that the basis for this right of self-determination is provided by bioethics, but conversely, the stronger the trend towards a doctrine of personality becomes, the more the man becomes subordinate to the person, and life without personality is excluded. Also, together with the right of self-determination (right to freedom), the right to pursue happiness becomes the human strategy for existence, but what kind of judgment can bioethics pass on this state of affairs? Well, an often-posed theme concerning environmental problems is the question of “the tragedy of common land”. This involves satisfying the self-interests of everybody. I sense here that in bioethics too, we have arrived at the problem of “the greatest good for the greatest number” the philosophy of the erstwhile utilitarianism. Pandora’s box has been opened by debate over “quality of life”, but bringing things under control may be an exercise set for bioethics.

Discussion

Shoji: Bioethics topics are very complex and there are a many things that we don’t know. The importance of bioethics education lies in the fact that we show different ways of thinking to students, for them to understand that we don’t know all the answers. And that we should value change. Therefore when you say clearly that this group agrees and this group does not agree, I think it is a dangerous trend to do so.

Miura: Yes, I think so. Thank you very much.

Aksoy: What is your requirement for teachers to teach this class? Philosophy teachers? Science teachers? Or what else?

Miura: Philosophy

Aksoy: Other requirements?

Macer: Anyone with a soul and a mind can teach.

Leavitt: Can people who believe that they have no souls be allowed to teach, including Irina?  I want to ask another questions. Something troubles and disturbs me about bioethics education in children although I was involved in it myself in the past few years.  We talk about that we want children to think for themselves and for the teacher not to tell them what to think in order to encourage independent thinking.  But I wonder whether we are encouraging a subtle form of indoctrination- indoctrinating children to accept a world where advance technologies solves problem for us. For example, obviously we can do therapeutic gene therapy, but what about enhancement? Obviously we can have human heart transplant, but how about pig heart?  In other words, I get the feeling that the debate about children thinking for themselves has become a minor issue. And that the major issue of introducing them into a world of accepting a new type of life which is so much based on technology is being encouraged to date. So I wonder how much is this free thought and philosophy and how much is this indoctrination of thought? This is a skeptical kind of question, but it troubles me.

Miura: Yes, that’s a difficult question. But like I presented here, there are a lot of dilemmas regarding medical and technological issues.  So what we just do is to give very basic information about these topics.

Leavitt: Thank you

Yasuoka: I am a product of the Japanese educational system. I attended Japanese high school. In university, I majored in bioethics. In graduate school, I am majoring in medical anthropology. I just have a plea to teachers, especially when you engage in teaching and researching bioethics.  It seems to me that students are indifferent. Professors are indifferent.  I hope that there is more care given to our educational system and that you give a chance to students.

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