Global bioethics and communitarianism

  • Henk A. M. J. ten Have


This paper explores the role of ‘community’ in the context of global bioethics. With the present globalization of bioethics, new and interesting references are made to this concept. Some are familiar, for example, community consent. This article argues that the principle of informed consent is too individual-oriented and that in other cultures, consent can be community-based. Other references to ‘community’ are related to the novel principle of benefit sharing in the context of bioprospecting. The application of this principle necessarily requires the identification and construction of communities. On the global level there are also new uses of the concept of community as ‘global community.’ Three uses are distinguished: (1) a diachronic use, including past, present, and future generations, (2) a synchronic ecological use, including nonhuman species, and (3) a synchronic planetary use, including all human beings worldwide. Although there is a tension between the communitarian perspective and the idea of global community, this article argues that the third use can broaden communitarianism. The current development towards cosmopolitanism is creating a new global community that represents humanity as a whole, enabling identification of world citizens and evoking a sense of global solidarity and responsibility. The emergence of global bioethics today demonstrates this development.


Benefit sharing Common heritage of humankind Community Community benefit Community consent Future generations Global bioethics Global health Van Rensselaer Potter 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Healthcare EthicsDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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