The plurality of Chinese and American medical moralities: toward an interpretive cross-cultural bioethics

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2000 Sep;10(3):239-60. doi: 10.1353/ken.2000.0020.


Since the late 1970s, American appraisals of Chinese medical ethics and Chinese responses to American bioethics range from frank criticism to warm appreciation, from refutation to acceptance. Yet in the United States as well as in China, American bioethics and Chinese medical ethics have been seen, respectively, as individualistic and communitarian. In this widely-accepted general comparison, the great variation in the two medical moralities, especially the diversity of Chinese experiences, has been unfortunately minimized, if not totally ignored. Neither American bioethics nor Chinese medical ethics is a field with only one dominant way of thinking. Medical moralities in America and China -- traditional and modern -- have always been plural and diverse. For example, American and Chinese cultures and medical moralities both exhibit individualistic and communitarian traditions. For this reason, bioethics in general and cross-cultural bioethics in particular must be fundamentally interpretive. Interpretive cross-cultural bioethics appreciates the plurality of medical morality within any culture. It can serve as a vital means of social and cultural criticism through engaged interpretations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Bioethics*
  • China
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Ethical Theory
  • Ethicists
  • Ethics
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Freedom
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Internationality*
  • Morals
  • Narration
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Social Responsibility
  • Social Values*
  • Social Welfare
  • United States
  • Western World