Against Relativism: Cultural Diversity and the Search for Ethical Universals in Medicine

Oxford University Press (1999)
This book provides an analysis of the debate surrounding cultural diversity, and attempts to reconcile the seemingly opposing views of "ethical imperialism," the belief that each individual is entitled to fundamental human rights, and cultural relativism, the belief that ethics must be relative to particular cultures and societies. The author examines the role of cultural tradition, often used as a defense against critical ethical judgments. Key issues in health and medicine are explored in the context of cultural diversity: the physician-patient relationship, disclosing a diagnosis of a fatal illness, informed consent, brain death and organ transplantation, rituals surrounding birth and death, female genital mutilation, sex selection of offspring, fertility regulation, and biomedical research involving human subjects. Among the conclusions the author reaches are that ethical universals exist, but must not be confused with ethical absolutes. The existence of ethical universals is compatible with a variety of culturally relative interpretations, and some rights related to medicine and health care should be considered human rights. Illustrative examples are drawn from the author's experiences serving on international ethical review committees and her travels to countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where she conducted educational workshops and carried out out her own research.
Keywords Medical ethics Cross-cultural studies  Transcultural medical care Moral and ethical aspects  Ethical absolutism  Ethical relativism  Cultural relativism
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Call number R725.5.M33 1999
ISBN(s) 0195116321   9780195116328  
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Tom L. Beauchamp (2004). Does Ethical Theory Have a Future in Bioethics? Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 32 (2):209-217.

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