Healthcare Systems and Medical Ethics in East Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Healthcare Systems and Medical Ethics in East Asia
Stream: Anthropology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Xisai Song, Cornell University, United States (organizer, chair, presenter)
Seonsam Na, Oxford University, United Kingdom (presenter)
Azumi Tsuge, Meiji Gakuin University, Japan (presenter)
Yi-Cheng Wu, Durham University, United Kingdom (presenter)
Xiaoling Chen, University of Colorado Boulder, United Kingdom (presenter)
Kwanwook Kim, Seoul National University, South Korea (discussant)


Social science scholars had long challenged the assumptions that regard biomedicine as an objective system of medical science with well-defined epistemology, ethical principles, and evaluative mechanisms. Instead, biomedicine—a seemingly universal medical system—is deeply shaped by local realities as it is practiced across the globe. How biomedicine, referred as “western medicine” in East Asia, becomes embedded in different East Asian contexts carries respective history trajectories, political agendas, and moral values. Brings together five presenters of diverse intellectual and geographic backgrounds, this cross-disciplinary panel addresses how biomedicine is contextualized in different parts of East Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. We historicize healthcare systems and unpack how healthcare systems influence the ethical formulation and clinical decision-making for doctors and patients in different East Asian contexts. Specifically, Na’s paper interrogates the dynamic relationships between the healthcare system, state-building, and social changes in Korea. Chen and Song’s articles adopt different opinions and approach to tackle the transformation of the healthcare landscape in China. Wu’s work addressed the ethical implications produced by the uneasy intertwinement of alcoholism and colonial politics in Taiwan. Tsuge’s study examines the ethical conundrums around a new but controversial prenatal test in Japan.