Bioethics News

“Global Bioethics: An Introduction”- A Reflection on the Globalisation of Bioethics

By: Robyn Perry-Thomas

Reaching a consensus on a comprehensive definition of global bioethics and its importance is surprisingly difficult. Yet, Professor Henk Ten Have has taken on this challenge, and much more, with ease, in his 2016 book- ‘Global Bioethics: An Introduction’1. In his book, Have approaches global bioethics in a stepwise manner. Medical ethics gave rise to bioethics, eventually leading to global bioethics.

Globalisation has meant that our ethical problems cross international borders, and consequently cultural, political and moral boundaries. Have leaves no doubt that global bioethics is of upmost relevance to 21st century living and conventional bioethical topics are discussed in a refreshing and relevant context.

However there is no bioethical consensus in this new territory of global bioethics. For how can a comprehensive, binding consensus be reached on such diverse and complex topics as reproductive technology, commercial surrogacy and the rights of the dying?

Whilst the laws in some countries may be different for cultural or religious reasons (for example, women travelling from Ireland to other countries in order to obtain an abortion), in many cases the fundamental driver for medical tourism is a clear discrepancy in economic power between the ‘tourists’ and their chosen country. This forms the very essence of medical tourism and, especially due to the implied risk of exploitation, should form a significant consideration for all concerned with global bioethics.

Yet, as reinforced by Have, bioethics goes beyond the individual. Our response to international disasters, regulation of tissue products and genetic research all fall under the realm of global bioethics.

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.