- The Development of Bioethics in Ukraine
Bioethics is a scientific field that attracts the attention not only of scientists and physicians, but also of people belonging to all sections of the population. Since bioethics is a system of thought, ideas, norms and values which regulates people’s behaviour and relationship with every living thing, its role in society is growing. Bioethical issues become clearly multidisciplinary as they cover all major areas of human activity—starting with environmental protection actions and ending with political decision-making process. Ideally, bioethics establishes a set of ethical principles, standards and rules that are universal and compulsory for all mankind, as well as helps to determine the redline threshold to human intrusion into living nature. During the last few decades, ethical issues have become increasingly understood within scientific, social and political circles, starting with modern medicine and biology. The urgency for a wider understanding and application of bioethics is a result of a number of scientific discoveries such as the demonstration of fundamental possibility of human cloning, mapping on the human genome, as well as a widespread introduction of totally new biomedical technologies into medical practice.
In the past Ukrainians took notice of ethical issues in the field of healthcare as well as in the general humanistic and philosophical context of bioethics. Prominent figures in the field of medicine (M. Maksimovich-Ambodik, D. Samoilovich, M. Pirogov, V. Obraztsov, F. Yanovskiy, D. Zabolotnyi, A. Bohomolets, P. Kostiuk, N. Amosov and many others) not only adhered to high ethical standards and rules, but also developed and improved them. They applied new diagnostic, treatment and prevention techniques only after thorough examination on animals and often on themselves. It was typical of them to serve people without seeking profit, to sacrifice themselves in implementing their [End Page 491] duties. A vivid example was Professor Feofil Gavrilovich Yanovskiy (1860–1928) who was called “the saint doctor” by the Kievites. A reflection attributed to him says: “Everybody has equal rights for earthly blessings. I cannot start living a selfish life and not pay attention to what’s going on with other people who may need my help; I cannot do so not because I’m kind, but because it is unfair to behave this way.”
A modern state governed by the rule of law is involved in the implementation of bioethical standards, the search for the development of a sound bioethical theoretical basis, for solutions addressing bioethical issues, as well at the development of legislation to implement these solutions. It is believed that one of the main prerequisites for the development of bioethics is the establishment of a network of bioethical committees at different levels. At the same time, the coordination of their work assures the implementation of internationally adopted standards and rules in the context of biomedical research, the establishment of a system for ethical education and the organisation of public discussions on the most drastic and key bioethical issues.
As we know, the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO was created in 1993, and national ethical committees started being organised in many countries as a result. In this context, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU) established a Bioethics Committee which would be attached to the Academy. This was appropriate because a number of national, interagency and international centers, commissions and committees in various fields were attached to the NASU. NASU also had extensive experience in organising interdisciplinary scientific institutions similar to what a new Bioethics Committee was believed to become. In 1998, the committee was created. Prominent scientists from NASU working in the fields of biology, medicine, philosophy and law as well as representatives of various ministries—health, environmental protection, science and education, justice, foreign affairs, and of the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Academy of Agricultural Sciences—became engaged in the Committee’s activities.
Since the very beginning, the Committee actively participated in the development of respective legislative acts in the belief that the implementation of ethical standards and rules greatly depended on such legislation. The Committee members contributed their expertise to new bioethical laws and suggested amendments to the related existing laws. In particular, they carried...