Bioethics Blogs

Imperialism and access to bioethics journals

Let’s say that bioethics is about understanding and managing conflicts of value related to health and care for health. Call them moral challenges. Let’s also say that there is something at stake in these challenges, i.e. that they could be understood and managed for better or for worse, where the ‘better’ and the ‘worse’ could impact on human lives. Let’s say too that these challenges are universal, i.e. that no society or community is immune from them, even if there are differences between what constitutes ‘health’, ‘care for health’, ‘values’, and how challenges are seen to be understood rightly (or wrongly) and managed well (or badly). In this generic sense, bioethics is universal. Now what if access to bioethics, as a tradition of thought, was largely limited to practitioners in the richer, industrialised countries of the world? It seems unjust that developing countries would be saddled with the moral challenges of health and medicine, without (presumably) also having resources to help make sense of and deal with them in reasonable ways.

This is the central complaint of Chattopadhyay, Myser and De Vries in a recent article in the Journal of Bioethics Inquiry, fetchingly entitled Imperialism in Bioethics: How Politics of Profit Negate Engagement of Developing World Bioethicists and Undermine Global Bioethics. The authors describe how policies by many publishers of bioethics journals making it extremely difficult for aspiring bioethicists in developing countries to engage with the existing (and past) literature. While there are initiatives to improve global access to existing bioethics journals (like HINARI), and there are some open access journals related to bioethics (like BMC Medical Ethics), and you could always write to authors and ask them for copies, these forms of access are inferior to the kind on offer in certain academic institutions in America and Europe.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.