Bioethics in Asia: in Transition


Bioethics in Asia is in transformation. In parallel with technological innovations in medicine and other fields the importance of bioethics is gradually recognized. Asia is a vast continent with huge diversity of religious, social, cultural and political values. Asian perspectives are equally diverse in moral reasoning and ethical decision‐making. Research developments in biomedicine and technological advancements in genomics have brought new dimensions to debates on informed consent, privacy for example, and new concepts are developed as an attempt to integrate local values in global issues. Bioethics in Asia is explored both from country perspectives and conceptualized from religious and philosophical views. As much as Buddhist and Confucian views have dominated Bioethics debates in Asia, gradually Islamic, Hindu and Jain perspectives are beginning to surface. This article attempts to provide an overview of contemporary bioethical debates in Asia, and how such debates within the region are also influencing global debates.

Key Concepts

  • Asian perspectives are diverse in moral reasoning and ethical decision‐making.

  • Islamic, Hindu and Sikh perspectives are beginning to surface in bioethics debates in Asia where Buddhist and Confucian perspectives traditionally dominated in academic debates.

  • Integration of local cultural values is encouraged in global issues, such as informed consent.

  • Family and community values dominate decision‐making.

  • There is a huge gap between biomedical research and clinical applications.

  • Genetics is increasingly becoming understood in the public domain.

  • There is a growing momentum to compete with the west in medical research.

  • Questions are raised if there is ‘one’ Asian Bioethics, given the multicultural societies within Asia.

Keywords: trust; filial piety; genetic testing; population research; biobanks; multiculturalism


Bhardwaj M (2007) Biobanks, association studies and validity: ethical, legal and social challenges in Asia. Journal of International Biotechnology Law 4: 133–145.

De Castro L (2009) Bioethics in Asia – Global Bioethics. Asian Bioethics Review 1(1): 1–4. Editorial.

Gupta J (2007) Private and public eugenics: genetic testing and screening in India. Bioethical Enquiry 4(3): 217–228.

Macer D (2006) Bioethics in Asia. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a00005893.

Macer DRJ (ed.) (2004) Challenges for Bioethics in Asia. Japan: Eubios Ethics Institute.

Nie JB and Campbell A (2007) Multiculturalism and Asian Bioethics: cultural war or creative dialogue? Bioethical Enquiry 4: 163–167.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2002) The Ethics of Research Related to Healthcare in Developing Countries. Report.

Pace C and Emanuel E (2005) The ethics of research in developing countries: assessing voluntariness. Lancet 365: 11–12.

Qiu R (2009) Ethical Governance of Biological and Biomedical Research. Bionet, 3rd Workshop Report. Program Report.

Sleeboom M (2007) Predictive genetic testing in Asia: social science perspectives on the bioethics of choice. Bioethical Enquiry 4: 193–195.

The Guardian (2006). Obesity in Asia Mirrors Western Increase. September 6.

Wiwanitkit V (2008) Genetic disorders and malaria in Indo China region. Journal of Vector Borne Diseases 45(2): 98–104.

Xin M (1998) Chinese geneticist's views of ethical issues in genetic testing and screening: evidence for eugenics in China. American Journal of Human Genetics 63: 688–695.

Zhai X (2009) Informed consent in the non‐Western cultural context and implementation of Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights. Asian Bioethics Review 1(1): 5–16.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Bhardwaj, Minakshi(Jan 2010) Bioethics in Asia: in Transition. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005893.pub2]