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

Hardcover | April 1, 1999

byRuth Macklin

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This book analyzes the debate surrounding cultural diversity and its implications for ethics. If ethics are relative to particular cultures or societies, then it is not possible to hold that there are any fundamental human rights. The author examines the role of cultural tradition, often usedas a defense against critical ethical judgments, and explores key issues in health and medicine 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 anddeath, 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 iscompatible 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 inAfrica, Asia, and Latin America, where she conducted educational workshops and carried out her own research.

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This book analyzes the debate surrounding cultural diversity and its implications for ethics. If ethics are relative to particular cultures or societies, then it is not possible to hold that there are any fundamental human rights. The author examines the role of cultural tradition, often usedas a defense against critical ethical judgme...

Ruth Macklin is at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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Format:HardcoverPublished:April 1, 1999Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195116321

ISBN - 13:9780195116328

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Table of Contents

1. Cultural and Ethical Relativism2. Philosophers and Anthropologists Debate3. Respect for Tradition4. The Doctor-Patient Relationship in Different Cultures5. Relativism and Multiculturalism6. Death and Birth7. International Feminism and Reproductive Rights8. International Research and Ethical Imperialism9. Human Rights in Health and Medicine10. Moral Progress and Ethical Universals

Editorial Reviews

"Macklin shows very clearly the importance of distinguishing between the justifiability of a universal principle and its applicability in concrete situation."--Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 2001