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Contemporary bioethical issues are inherently cross-cultural and global in their scope. Moral quandaries in healthcare, life sciences, and biotechnologies do not respect natural and human boundaries, the boundaries between and within nation-states, ethnicities, cultures, communities, and social groups. In addition, the simultaneously large-scale and intimate interactions between and within different cultures and civilizations and the rapid pace at which they change is a phenomenon that distinguishes our times from previous eras. Asia, China included, has been resuming a more and more active role in the world affairs, scientific, and technological and medical advances. Yet, many long-rooted stereotypes on eastern cultures and medical ethics in Asia are still popular in the west as well the east. As a result, an essential prerequisite for contemporary bioethical inquiry lies in the development of a transcultural bioethics and a more adequate eastern-western dialogue.

Our research explores Māori perspectives on genetic biotechnologies and body/organ donation, the nature of indigenous knowledge, medical ethics in China, Confucian and Daoist perspectives on bioethics, Chinese voices on abortion, the ideology and ethics of China's birth control program, patient-physician trust and mistrust in China, medical professionalism in China in comparison with the west, and Japan's wartime medical atrocities and international aftermath. Other topics include the role of acupuncture for mental health in NZ and healthcare in rural China. Through these different but related research undertakings, a distinctive "transcultural" or "interpretative" approach to bioethics has been proposed and is still developing.

Collaborative research

Rebuilding patient-physician trust in China: An integrated qualitative and normative study

Principal investigators Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University, USA), Jing-Bao Nie (Bioethics Centre, University of Otago), Joseph Tucker (University of North Carolina, USA), and Wei Zhu (Fudan University, China). Supported by a Harvard China Fund grant (2013–2015).

Cross-cultural and comparative bioethics: The search for new methodologies

By Jing-Bao Nie (Bioethics Centre, University of Otago) and Ruth Fitzgerald (Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago), in collaboration with Sir Mason Durie (Massey University), Ole Döring (Free University Berlin and Charite Medical University, Germany), Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner (Sussex University, UK), Grant Gillett and Neil Pickering (Bioethics Centre, University of Otago). Supported by the University of Otago Research Theme on Cross-Cultural and Comparative Studies (CCCS) (2012–2015).

Engineering nature, ideology and ethics: China's Three Gorges Dam in comparison with NZ Clyde Dam

By co-principal investigators Jing-Bao Nie and Neil Pickering (Bioethics Centre, University of Otago), supported by a University of Otago Research grant (2010).

Predicaments of social engineering: Ideology and ethics of China's planned reproduction

By principal investigator Jing-Bao Nie (Bioethics Centre, University of Otago) and associate investigators Yali Cong (Peking University Medical School, China), Ole Döring (Institute for Asian Studies, Hamburg, Germany), and Mark Selden (Cornell University, USA); supported by a Marsden Fund grant from the Royal Society of NZ (2008–2010, extended to 2013).

Japanese doctors' human experimentation in wartime China: Ethical challenges and socio-cultural dimensions

By Principal Investigator Jing-Bao Nie (Bioethics Centre, University of Otago); Associate Investigators Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University, USA) and Nanyan Guo (International Institute for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan). Supported by a Marsden Fund grant from the Royal Society of NZ (2004–2005).


Research students

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