Against relativism: cultural diversity and the search for ethical universals in medicine

New York: Oxford University Press (1999)
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Abstract

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.

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Citations of this work

Moral relativism.Christopher Gowans - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Metaethics.Geoff Sayre-McCord - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Human Enhancement: Enhancing Health or Harnessing Happiness?Bjørn Hofmann - 2019 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 16 (1):87-98.
The Whiteness of Bioethics.Warwick Anderson - 2021 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 18 (1):93-97.

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