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  • Priority Setting in Islamic Bioethics: Top 10 Bioethical Challenges in Islamic Countries
  • Alireza Bagheri (bio)


The ethical dilemmas raised by new advances in science and technology have challenged all societies, religious as well as non-religious. In the last decades, secularisation of bioethics has become a dominant trend in bioethical discussions, as observed by Daniel Callahan two decades ago: “… the field of bioethics has moved from one dominated by religious and medical tradition to one now increasingly shaped by philosophical and legal concept” (Callahan 1990).

However, in many religious societies, for example in Muslim societies, religious tradition continues to be the dominant approach and the main source in responding to the ethical questions in biomedicine. Islamic Shari’a governs not only the private lives of individual Muslims, but it is also the basis for decision-making and setting of public policies. Hence, Muslim scholars have tried to respond to the ethical questions in light of religious tradition. It should be noted that diversity exists among Muslims in different countries and positions taken by Muslim jurists on ethical issues are not unified.

Currently, the Muslim population consists of almost one-fourth of the world’s population, and in the era of globalisation, multiculturalism has become a distinctive characteristic of many societies worldwide. Therefore, not only is it important for bioethicists worldwide to understand their own traditions and values, but also that of different cultures and religious traditions within their communities. This may explain why recent Western academic research also stresses the importance of incorporating the Islamic discourse in bioethical debates [End Page 391] (Brockopp 2008). Although Islamic countries are geographically diverse, they are nevertheless similar in terms of religious background. However, regarding bioethical issues, each Islamic country may have different priorities and challenges. In order to identify the priorities of bioethical challenges in Islamic societies, an international questionnaire survey was conducted in 2010 and 2011.

This article presents the results of the survey in its ranking of the top 10 bioethical priorities in Islamic countries.

Methods and Materials

In this study, a questionnaire survey was conducted to document the opinions of Muslim bioethicists—who have written on bioethical issues—about bioethics priorities in Islamic countries. In the first step, based on an extensive literature review on bioethical topics written by Muslim bioethicists, in English, Arabic and Persian, a list of topics in Islamic bioethics was identified. The list was sent to five Muslim bioethicists in different countries, asking them to mark topics that are more relevant and important in Islamic countries and in Islamic bioethics based on their opinions. Then, a questionnaire with 20 topics was developed and sent to Muslim bioethicists in 15 Islamic countries as well as several Muslim bioethicists who reside in Europe and North America.

In this survey, participants were asked to rank the top 10 bioethical challenges from a list of 20 topics using numeric ranking (1 = most important to 10).


Out of 65 questionnaires sent by email to Muslim bioethicists in 15 countries, 54 responses were returned, giving a response rate of 83 per cent. One response was not considered for data analysis because it was not completed correctly. As shown in the profiles of the respondents in Table 1, 62 per cent of them were healthcare professionals, 37 per cent were non-healthcare professionals, 30.2 per cent were females and 69.8 per cent were males.

The following list includes the top 10 bioethical challenges in Islamic countries that participants have chosen among 20 topics listed in the questionnaire (Table 2).

It should be noted that there were 20 topics on the questionnaire. However, the following 10 bioethical topics in the questionnaire did not get priority to be included in the top 10 listings: public health ethics and pandemic planning; ethics in research; IVF, surrogacy and embryo donation; cloning and stem cell research; women’s health ethics; end-of-life ethics; environmental ethics; beginning-of-life ethics; genomic ethics; and nanoethics. [End Page 392]

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Table 1.

Profiles of respondents in the survey

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Table 2.

Top 10 Bioethical Challenges in Muslim Countries


In Islamic societies, the teachings...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 391-401
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2017
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