thinking about culture differences

i attended a talk yesterday about the “Ethics of Bedside Rationing” – mostly focused on the question of who gets scarce medical resources like kidney and liver transplants… a colleague (someone not born in the U.S.) asked a question about whether it would matter in the choice betwee two identically-situated transplant candidates (same prognosis before and after transplant, same age, same clinical status) if one of those candidates had 3 dependent children who relied on him, and the other had no dependents. the speaker said, categorically, “No”. which , I think, is a reflection of a great divide between thinking in America (where there tends to be an emphasis on the “individual”) and other parts of the world, where community ties carry more weight.

3 thoughts on “thinking about culture differences

  1. janaki says:

    charakan – it's interesting that you bring up South Africa. I had the opportunity to work briefly in SA, setting up an HIV clinic in Pretoria, and while I was there, I was able to attend a regional medical ethics meeting in Johannesburg. I have always had a strong interest in ethics, so I was fascinated to go.And, I was astonished at how some of the conclusions that the South Africans arrived at for various ethical problems were so very different from what we would come to in the US!! It was a great lesson in how much an influence cultural values have on ethics – I really don't think that there is any such thing as an absolute ethical system that exists outside of the societal context.

  2. charakan says:

    That observation is interesting.Is the attitude of Europeans the same as Americans? What about the whites in Australia and South Africa? What about colored people in US?

  3. Morah Mary says:

    I also wonder if that attitude has become more pervasive as people have done more moving around, cities have become larger and we have become far to busy to really "know" our neighbors. I'll have to think about that a bit. Thank, Janaki

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