- vol.3, pp.103-128, 2007-03-31
In rationalizing the approval of scientific research on human embryos, comparisons to abortion are often brought up. In discussing the bioethical question concerning “life’s beginning,” we note that, since 1960 in both Europe and America, the debate surrounding the morality of abortion has been carried on with battle-like intensity. And the accumulated debate points have determined the general scheme of the public understanding of the issue. In short, the focus of that debate centers on whether or not embryos and fetuses a human life forms (life as individuated human beings) worthy of the highest level of respect.In Japan, the debate over this issue has not been very lively and, in fact, there the issue is not taken to be one with any definite significance. One reason for this is that among those supporting abortion rights in Japan there is also concern for the things being emphasized by the community of persons with disabilities. On the one hand, within anti-abortion groups in Japan, there are some who have not developed powerful oppositional movements such as those of religious organizations like the Catholic Church.Although the commandment that “one must not kill humans without just cause” is acknowledged in Buddhism, Shinto, and Confucianism as well as in Japanese folk culture, rhetoric explaining the foundation for this belief differs greatly from that found in the western Christian cultural sphere. In this way, a religious culture different from western Christian thought exists in Japan, and when the notion of “dignity of human life” is used in Japan, it reflects a religious culture with different nuances than those evoked in the West. With view to the difference of religious culture between the West and Japan, the author proposes to use the concept of “the dignity of coexisting 128 life” in considering the reasons that we must refrain from the use of human embryos. This was an attempt to liberate the values and spirituality that accompany the idea of “dignity of human life” from the notion of respect for the human as an individual. Presently, the fact that differences in value systems and spirituality in relation to “human dignity” have a large influence on bioethical considerations is causing apprehension. Because cultures are different, great differences in the judgment of individual problems arise, and the number of such problems that must be solved is considerable. If so, it could be said that we are coming to a point where we must seek out some understanding based on a standard shared by all of us in the human race. The value systems and notions of spirituality based in particular religious cultures confront one another and are based in diversity. We must work hard to advance the dialogue between different cultures in order to reach agreements on various issues of bioethics.