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Part of "A Comprehensive and Proactive Simulation of an Inclusive Community: Creating a Sustainable Model of Collaborative Services Using the University as a Core Resource."Examining how bioethical issues are discussed

writer: OTANI, Izumi (College of Social Science, Professor ) published: 2013-3

How is “self-determination”

  In the domain of human services, whether it be medical treatment, education or welfare, self-determination on the part of the person receiving the service in question is now taken to be self-evident. This principle of autonomy in bioethics has been systematized in the form of the legal principle of the right to self-determination, but conflicts have arisen regarding its adaptation to people who cannot exercise self-determination when it comes to controversial issues such as gastrostomy, dialysis and mechanical ventilation. Discussion has progressed to the systemization of efforts to avoid this kind of conflict by having people write “advance directives” or designate proxies to make decisions for them while they still have the ability to make decisions for themselves.  While this can be said to paradoxically illustrate the fact that what must be respected most is the “intention of the person in question,” putting that aside, how has “self-determination” turned out in practice? How do people make determinations about what will happen in their own lives? How do they decide what will happen to people close to them when acting as “proxies”?
 People do not live in a laboratory vacuum, so when they make important decisions regarding their own bodies it is inconceivable that they do not receive some kind of influence from someone. There are presumably cases where this influence comes from someone close to them and cases in which it comes from something bigger.

How are “birth/aging/illness/death”being

  Today, bioethical issues such as reproductive technology, cloning, genetic enhancement, brain death and organ transplantation, euthanasia/death with dignity, and selective abortion appear not only as the subject of news reports and documentaries but also as topics being addressed in other formats including movies, TV programs, novels, manga, and theatre. How are “birth/aging/illness/death” being portrayed in these media? How have they been portrayed in the past? Have these portrayals changed with the times? What kind of relationship do they have with the decisions people make about their own lives and the lives of those close to them? What kind of relationship do they have to the thoughts and awareness of the general public, measured numerically as “public opinion”? What is their relationship to the discourse of academician in bioethics and the diagnoses made by medical professionals? How strong is their influence on the discussion of bioethical issues in the classroom?
 In order to examine these questions, the “bioethical issues representation archive” project has been established to collect and organize various media dealing with bioethical issues. Media such as TV news programs are destined to disappear after they are broadcast, and while more and more drama and documentary TV programs are becoming viewable through methods such as CS rebroadcasting and the sale of DVDs, these cases still only constitute a small part of what is produced.  Media addressing bioethical issues also exist in various other forms, including movies, plays, novels, and manga. Looking closely at the educational function of these cultural materials, it may be possible to say that their portrayal of “life” and depictions of “birth/aging/illness/death” sometimes have a greater influence on the general public than newspapers and TV news programs.

Related projects

  • A Comprehensive and Proactive Simulation of an Inclusive Community:Creating a Sustainable Model of Collaborative Services Using the University as a Core Resource. Bioethical issues representation archive


Ritsumeikan Journal of Human Sciences


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Institute of Ars Vivendi. Ritsumeikan Univ.