New advances in medical technologies, and biomedical sciences has arisen the simplicity of organ transplanting, termination of life-sustaining treatment, system cell research, genetic alteration of species, Assisted Reproductive Technologies, use of dialysis machines, human research subjects, definition of death, end of life issues etc.
The Dutch oncologist Van Rensselaer Potter the founder of Bioethics in 1970, defined it as the “Bridge to the future”. It is a new discipline that combines biological knowledge with the study of human values. It derives from Bios-which is Greek for life and ethos-meaning nature, disposition and habit. Bioethics is therefore-ethics of life . Potter pointed out that the entire ecosystem was put at risk by the split between two areas of knowledge: scientific knowledge and humanistic knowledge, The practice of making a neat distinction between ethical values which are broadly part of the humanistic culture and biological facts, was in Potters view at the root of an indiscriminate scientific and technological process that was endangering humanity and the very survival of life on earth. This was precisely the reason why he called bioethics the ” science of survival.” The instinct for survival was inadequate. So, a new science had become necessary hence bioethics-a new philosophy that sought to integrate biology, ecology, medicine and human values. It is important to note that Bioethics is not a new ethic, or a new set of principles. It is the same old ethics applied to a new set of problems.
The material object (what is being studied in a discipline) of bioethics is hence human behaviors in general and specifically in the medical and scientific field. Its formal object (the Perspective under which one studies it) is: Analysis of the moral value, of the just and unjust, the good and bad, what to do and what not to do, and how to behave in certain situations. It studies the human conduct.
The introduction of Bioethics education in our institutions of higher learning is therefore inevitable. Bioethics knowledge arms the present and future generations with a critical mind capable of distinguishing and justifying right from wrong. Bioethicists act as educators, and implementers in the different sectors of life.
They are indispensable in giving morally founded advice to the governments NGOs and humanity in view of preserving both their rights and the inherit dignity of all persons. Bioethics focuses not only on man but also on the biosphere in its entirety, addressing every scientific intervention by human beings upon life in general. It is not to be reduced to medical ethics. The original vision of a global bioethics encompasses both the biosphere and mankind, as well as their reciprocal interactions over the short and long terms.
It examines whether new regulations in the different sectors of life adequately ensure than benefits weigh more than the risks posed by the activities in those sectors. Bioethicists should help information technology professionals such as software developers, database managers and web administrators to incorporate ethics principals into discussions of online technological, creativity and innovation. In the health/medical sector, bioethics offers consultation, education, advocacy and guidelines to be followed in preserving the values and integrity of human person. Bioethics knowledge is therefore indispensable for an integral transformation of the 21st century humanity.
The ethical preoccupation as regards human behavior in the sphere of life is therefore not unfounded. It needs immediate diagnosis which diagnosis is embedded in the bioethics knowledge advocating for informed patients. Bioethics being multi-disciplinary, the course involves cross cutting knowledge and competences in relevant sciences and humanities. All this is to enable humanity engage in rational and critical reflection on human life, its challenges and the various ethical issues.