We are proud to present our September 2020 issue, the third issue of this year’s volume 12. As in our previous issue, we have curated a thematic section on the ethical responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original articles in this issue demonstrate very well the range and diversity of contributions that arise from the field of bioethics. Doan et al. provide a fascinating account of the cultural, social and ethical factors in Vietnam that likely drive a desire for post-mortem reproduction among the citizenry in that country, arguing for more overt, permissive regulation of the practice as a result. In contrast, Tsuruwaka et al. offer qualitative evidence of the attitudes and approaches of health care professionals in Japan when approaching the delicate matter of advance care planning (ACP). Finally, Du et al. offer a different kind of qualitative analysis relating to press presentation in China of the issue of gene patenting. This globally-controversial issue continues to raise profound ethical questions not only about the propriety of granting intellectual property rights (IPRs) over ‘living material’, but also about the ways in which IPRs might be exercised to restrict access to diagnostics and treatments, raising questions of justice and exploitation, among many others.
The Perspectives section of this issue is unapologetically dominated by contributions addressing the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, and begins with an account and analysis of the Italian professional response to scarce resources, provided by Craxi et al. In a similar vein, de Castro-Hamoy and de Castro alert us to the ever-present threat of ageism in scarce resource allocation, and they bring helpful analysis of the ethical concerns to the current COVID-19 context. Turning to country responses, our two other COVID-19 papers offer examples of tentative success and on-going challenges in managing the outbreak. Thus, reflecting the apparent success story of Vietnam which – to date – has no reported deaths from COVID-19, Ivic offers possible explanations about the Vietnamese response, justifying these by reference to a broad societal ethical commitment to an ethic of care, emphasising collective responsibility and community solidarity. In contrast, Yusof et al. alert us to the dangers and vagaries of using social media to spread information about the virus within the wider society. Using the example of Malaysia, the authors highlight ways in which irresponsible uses of social media can give rise to a host of ethical concerns. To address this, the authors offer an ethically-grounded strategy both for Malaysia and for other countries facing similar concerns.
In many ways, the final perspective paper in the September issue reflects many elements of the papers above. In their examination of the role of HealthServe – a non-profit organisation in Singapore that defends and promotes the rights of migrant workers – Rajaraman et al. offer inside insights to the workings of this organisation as actors themselves seeking to promote a public good for structurally disadvantaged groups. Despite legal entitlement to access to the Universal Health Coverage system in Singapore, the authors demonstrate well how epistemic and structural factors lead to significant problems of access and serious concerns about equity, justice and a lack of solidarity. Arguably, it was precisely these kinds of ethical failures that led to Singapore’s COVID-19 spike in April 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic must not obscure or eclipse longer-standing matters of bioethical concern or global ethical crisis. The Asian Bioethics Review welcomes all contributions on these issues, and no contribution of quality has been, nor will be, excluded from this journal for the sake of wider discussion of COVID-19. By the same token, to the extent that this journal can continue to capture and publicise commentary on the ethical responses of countries to this pandemic, we will strive to do so.
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Editorial by Graeme T. Laurie
Post-Mortem Reproduction from the Vietnamese Perspective – An Analysis and Comments
Hai Thanh Doan, Diep Thi Phuong Doan, and Nguyen Kim The Duong
When do Physicians and Nurses Start Communication about Advance Care Planning? A Qualitative Study at an Acute Care Hospital in Japan
Mari Tsuruwaka, Yoshiko Ikeguchi, and Megumi Nakamura
doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00135-1 [open access]
Framing Ethical Concerns and Attitudes towards Human Gene Patents in the Chinese Press
Li Du, Sijie Lin, and Kalina Kamenova
Special Section – Perspectives on COVID-19: Assessing Ethical Responses to the Pandemic [free access]
Rationing in a Pandemic: Lessons from Italy
Lucia Craxì, Marco Vergano, Julian Savulescu, and Dominic Wilkinson
Age Matters but it should not be used to Discriminate against the Elderly in Allocating Scarce Resources in the Context of COVID-19
Leniza de Castro-Hamoy, and Leonardo D. de Castro
Sharing Information on COVID-19: the ethical challenges in the Malaysian setting
Aimi Nadia Mohd Yusof, Muhamad Zaid Muuti, Lydia Aiseah Ariffin, and Mark Kiak Min Tan
Vietnam’s Response to the Covid-19 Outbreak
Exclusion of Migrant Workers from National UHC Systems – Perspectives from HealthServe, a Non-Profit Organisation in Singapore
Natarajan Rajaraman, Teem-Wing Yip, Benjamin Yi Hern Kuan, and Jeremy Fung Yen Lim