Autonomy in Japan: What does it Look Like?

Asian Bioethics Review 14 (4):317-336 (2022)
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This paper analysed the nature of autonomy, in particular respect for autonomy in medical ethics/bioethics in Japan. We have undertaken a literature survey in Japanese and English and begin with the historical background and explanation of the Japanese wordJiritsu (autonomy). We go on to identify patterns of meaning that researchers use in medical ethics / bioethics discussions in Japan, namely, Beauchamp and Childress’s individual autonomy, relational autonomy, and O’Neill’s principled autonomy as the three major ways that autonomy is understood. We examine papers discussing these interpretations. We propose using the term ‘a form of autonomy’ first used by Edmund Pellegrino in 1992 and examine the nature of ‘a form of autonomy.’ We finally conclude that the crux of what Pellegrino calls ‘something close to autonomy,’ or ‘a form of autonomy' might best be understood as the minimization of physician paternalism and the maximization of respect for patient preference. Simultaneously, we introduce a family-facilitated approach to informed consent and respond to criticism by Laura Sullivan. Finally, we discuss cross-cultural approaches and global bioethics. Furthermore, we use the term ‘Bioethics across the Globe’ instead of ‘Global Bioethics’, calling for international scholars to write works to provide an in-depth understanding of each country. We conclude that deep understanding of others is pivotal for dialogue to be of value. We hope this article will deepen the reader’s understanding of Japan and will contribute to the progress of bioethics worldwide.



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