Visiting researcher explores Japanese public discourse on biomedical issues

Professor Shin Fujieda‘s year as a Visiting Researcher is coming to a close. Dr. Fujieda joined us from Kyoto, Japan, where he will resume his teaching responsibilities at the end of the month as an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy of and Faculty of Letters at Otani University. Since 2010, he has also held a position as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at Kyoto Women’s University. He received his PhD from Otani University.

Shin’s research interests include Philosophy of Religion, especially Søren Kierkegaard’s writings, and Religious Studies, focused on the religious and spiritual language found in biomedical discourse. During his stay at Georgetown, he used the materials and reference services of the Bioethics Research Library to work to describe how various religious terms and concepts are employed in the public discourse concerning biomedical issues and consider what kind of influence they have had on those issues by taking a closer look at the development of bioethical studies in the US.

Fujieda has agreed to present his research findings in an informal talk on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 from 1:30-2:30 pm in the Healy 427 Conference Room. Read below for his prepared abstract for the presentation of Religion’s Retreat: Has the Secularization of Japanese Bioethical Discourse on Organ Transplantation been Beneficial?:

In this presentation, I will discuss the current situation regarding the issue of organ transplantation in Japan and describe how and why religious voices have fallen silent in the bioethical discourse. In Japan, the number of organ donations from brain dead donors averages slightly more than 40 cases a year, a figure which is notably small in comparison to that of the US. Several explanations could be given: an opt-in system for organ donation; indifference to imperfect duties, and universal health care coverage that makes advanced life-support treatment affordable. In addition to these explanations, I would like to emphasize the absence of religious voices as one cause for the low numbers of organ donations. I will argue that while secular discourse is appropriate for the purpose of debating public policy, it is insufficient for the purpose of addressing the individual, existential questions that lie behind decisions such as organ donation. I hope to explore how different voices and languages, including religious ones, can be introduced to the biomedical discourse, and how these different voices and languages can co-exist and bring greater richness and depth to that discourse.