Scandinavian Perspectives

Citation metadata

Editor: J. Britt Holbrook
Date: 2015
Ethics, Science, Technology, and Engineering: A Global Resource
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 4
Content Level: (Level 5)
Lexile Measure: 1380L

Document controls

Main content

Full Text: 
Page 231

Scandinavian Perspectives

One of the main trends for Scandinavian bioethicists since the mid-1980s has been to describe, clarify, and critically discuss moral arguments in the wake of advances within different branches of science and technology. In particular, moral arguments for and against the use of biotechnologies such as assisted reproduction, prenatal diagnosis, stem-cell research, gene therapy, enhancement of humans, and neuroscience have been on the agenda. Around the late 1980s, governments in the three Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, and Sweden) established ethical councils in response to developments in these scientific areas. The tasks of these councils are not only to brief the parliament but also to inform and initiate public discussions about the ethical challenges that are raised by modern biotechnology, the environment, and climate change. Examples of such organizations are the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board, the Danish Council of Ethics, and the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics. The establishment of these councils has undoubtedly led to increased interest in bioethics in Scandinavia.

Central Discussions

Of keen interest to bioethicists in Sweden and Denmark are developments in the areas of reproductive technology and prenatal diagnosis. Several bioethicists have argued that these technologies should be embraced in a liberal way because of the benefits they may bring and because the arguments against their use are weak or flawed. It has been argued, for example, that it should be legal for health-care personnel to assist almost all infertile people (including single mothers, lesbians, and women over the age of forty-five) to bring children into the world by means of assisted reproduction techniques such as in vitro fertilization or microinsemination (see, e.g., Tännsjö 1991b ; Petersen 2001 ). And it also has been argued that the moral worries that may be voiced against the use of prenatal diagnosis to help people bring healthy children into the world, such as the fear of eugenics, are too weak compared to the benefits (see, e.g., Munthe 1992 , 1999 ; Hermerén 1999 ; Persson 2004 ; Petersen 2005 ; Tännsjö 1991a ). At the same time, however, there have also been some critiques of these liberal conclusions (see, e.g., Holm 1998 ; Kemp, Lebech, and Rendtorff 1997 ), often centered on the moral wrongness of terminating embryos or fetuses. A key research focus for Scandinavian bioethics, in connection with the ethical challenges raised by the abovementioned technologies (as well as abortion in general), has been the development of arguments in favor of the view that an individual can benefit from coming into existence (compare, e.g., Elster 2007 ; Munthe 1992 ; Ryberg 1995 ; Tännsjö 1997; Petersen 2001 ; Holtug 2001 , 2011 ; Persson 2004 ; Bykvist 2007 ; Arrhenius and Rabinowicz 2010 ). Unlike in countries such as the United States and Germany, and those with large Catholic populations such as Spain, Italy, and Ireland, where similar discussions tend to revolve around the questions of whether or not abortion is morally acceptable or should remain legal, Scandinavian bioethicists have played down this debate and have thus turned their attention to other issues.

Page 232  |  Top of Article

One current topic in Scandinavian bioethics is the use of biomedical enhancements. This work has included discussions surrounding the use of medical substances and methods in sports and has embraced arguments claiming that current doping policies are implausible (compare, e.g., Tännsjö and Tamburrini 2000 ; Tamburrini and Tännsjö 2005 ; Petersen and Lippert-Rasmussen 2007). Another area of interest to Scandinavian bioethicists, such as Ingmar Persson (2012; Persson and Savulescu 2012 ), Nick Bostrom (2005 ; Bostrom and Savulescu 2009 ), and Anders Sandberg (Savulescu and Sandberg 2008 ), is the ethics surrounding moral enhancement of humans by means of drugs, and in particular the role these drugs can play in helping users amend behaviors so they are less destructive. In a similar vein, the ethical challenges that arise from the use of pharmaceuticals to improve behavior in criminal offenders have been discussed by Lene Bomann-Larsen (2013 ), Jesper Ryberg (2012 ), and Ryberg and Thomas Søbirk Petersen (2013 ).

The Scandinavian bioethics community also contributes to a wide range of ongoing discussions in the international arena, including the defense of the legalization of euthanasia (Tännsjö 2004 ; Kappel 2002 ), the critique of slippery-slope arguments against the use of gene therapy (Holtug 1993 ), the moral importance of the distinction between treatment and enhancement (Bostrom and Roache 2007 ; Holtug 2011 ), the discussion about what characterizes a fair distribution of resources within the health-care system (Kappel and Sandøe 1992 ; Lauridsen and Lippert-Rasmussen 2009 ; Cappelen and Norheim 2005 ; Cappelen and Tungodden 2006 ), the use of stem-cell research and biobanking (Solbakk, Holm, and Hofmann 2008 ; Solbakk and Holm 2008), the use of presymptomatic genetic testing (Juth 2005 ), and the ethics concerning organ donation (Karlsen, Strand, and Solbakk 2009 ; Petersen and Lippert-Rasmussen 2012 ).

Sites of Scandinavian Bioethics

In all three Scandinavian countries there are universitybased centers and research groups that focus on bioethical research. For example, at the University of Oslo in Norway there is the Center for Medical Ethics, which counts Jan Helge Solbakk among its professorial staff. Research at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen includes a strong focus on the fair distribution of health care— especially work undertaken by the professors Alexander W. Cappelen and Bertil Tungodden. At the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, the Department of Philosophy and History of Technology, chaired by Sven Ove Hansson, carries out research on risk assessment and the sustainability of the use of science, technology, and engineering (see, e.g., Hansson 2009 ). Torbjörn Tännsjö is the chair of the Stockholm Center for Health Care Ethics and is also an affiliated professor in medical ethics at the medical university Karolinska Institutet. At the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, Peter Sandøe is the head of the Danish Center for Bioethics and Risk Assessment. Sandøe and his colleagues, especially Karsten Klint Jensen and Mickey Gjerris, have contributed extensively to both the national and the international debate on bioethics— especially within the areas of food consumption and animal welfare (see, e.g., Sandøe and Christiansen 2008 ; Jensen and Andersen 1999 ; Gjerris and Gaiani 2013 ). In 2013 the Research Group for Criminal Justice Ethics at Roskilde University in Denmark—which is chaired by Jesper Ryberg—received funding from the Danish National Research Foundation for a project on neuroscience and criminal ethics.

The Future

With these research groups in place, together with the fact that several scholars outside these groups work in the field of bioethics, the future of bioethics in Scandinavia looks more than just well established. Additionally, many researchers collaborate with peers outside the Scandinavian bioethics community, one notable example being the affiliation or contact several Scandinavian moral philosophers have with the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.

Page 233  |  Top of Article

Bibliography

Arrhenius, Gustaf, and Wlodek Rabinowicz. 2010. “Better to Be than Not to Be?” In The Benefit of Broad Horizons: Intellectual and Institutional Preconditions for a Global Social Science; Festschrift for Bjorn Wittrock on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Hans Joas and Barbro Klein, 399–421. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Bomann-Larsen, Lene. 2013. “Voluntary Rehabilitation? On Neurotechnological Behavioural Treatment, Valid Consent, and (In)appropriate Offers.” Neuroethics 6 (1): 65–77.

Bostrom, Nick. 2005. “In Defense of Posthuman Dignity.” Bioethics 19 (3): 202–214.

Bostrom, Nick, and Rebecca Roache. 2007. “Human Enhancement: Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement.” In New Waves in Applied Ethics, edited by Jesper Ryberg, Thomas Søbirk Petersen, and Clark Wolf, 120–152. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bostrom, Nick, and Julian Savulescu. 2009. “Human Enhancement Ethics: The State of the Debate.” In Human Enhancement, edited by Julian Savulescu and Nick Bostrom, 1–22. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bykvist, Krister. 2007. “The Benefits of Coming into Existence.” Philosophical Studies 135 (3): 335–362.

Cappelen, Alexander W., and Ole Frithjof Norheim. 2005. “Responsibility in Health Care: A Liberal Egalitarian Approach.” Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (8): 476–480.

Cappelen, Alexander W., and Bertil Tungodden. 2006. “Relocating the Responsibility Cut: Should More Responsibility Imply Less Redistribution?” Politics, Philosophy, and Economics 5 (3): 353–362.

Danish Council of Ethics. 2013. Accessed October 31. http://www.etiskraad.dk/da-DK.aspx?sc_lang=en

Elster, Jakob. 2007. “Wrongful Life, Suicide, and Euthanasia.” Journal of Philosophical Research 32: 273–282.

Gjerris, Mickey, and Silvia Gaiani. 2013. “Household Food Waste in Nordic Countries: Estimations and Ethical Implications.” Etikk i praksis: Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics 7 (1): 6–23.

Hansson, Sven Ove. 2009. “Technology, Prosperity, and Risk.” In A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology, edited by Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Stig Andur Pedersen, and Vincent F.Hendricks, 483–494. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hermerén, Göran. 1999. “Neonatal Screening: Ethical Aspects.” Acta Paediatrica 88 (s432): 99–103.

Holm, Søren. 1998. “Ethical Issues in Pre-implantation Diagnosis.” In The Future of Human Reproduction: Ethics, Choice, and Regulation, edited by John Harris and Søren Holm, 176–190. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Holm, Søren. 2011. “Withdrawing from Research: A Rethink in the Context of Research Biobanks.” Health Care Analysis 19 (3): 269–281.

Holtug, Nils. 1993. “Human Gene Therapy: Down the Slippery Slope?” Bioethics 7 (5): 402–419.

Holtug, Nils. 2001. “On the Value of Coming into Existence.” Journal of Ethics 5 (4): 361–384.

Holtug, Nils. 2011. “Equality and the Treatment-Enhancement Distinction.” Bioethics 25 (3): 137–144.

Jensen, Karsten Klint, and Svend Andersen, eds. 1999. Bioetik [Bioethics]. Copenhagen: Rosinante.

Juth, Niklas. 2005. Genetic InformationValues and Rights: The Morality of Presymptomatic Genetic Testing. Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.

Kappel, Klemens. 2002. “The Morality of Euthanasia.” In Ethics, Rights, and Death in Modern Medicine, edited by Anders Dræby Sørensen, Lise Gormsen, and Søren Høring, 79–108.Å rhus, Denmark: Philosophia.

Kappel, Klemens, and Peter Sandøe. 1992. “QALYs, Age, and Fairness.” Bioethics 6 (4): 297–316.

Kappel, Klemens, and Peter Sandøe. 1994. “Saving the Young before the Old: A Reply to John Harris.” Bioethics 8 (1): 84–92.

Karlsen, Jan Reinert, Roger Strand, and Jan Helge Solbakk. 2009. “Life at All Costs: European Precautionary Policies on Xenotransplantation.” International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management 12 (1): 35–47.

Kemp, Peter, Mette Lebech, and Jacob Rendtorff. 1997. Den bioetiske vending: En grundbog i bioetik [The bioethical reversal: A textbook of bioethics]. Copenhagen: Spektrum.

Lauridsen, Sigurd, and Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen. 2009. “Legitimate Allocation of Public Healthcare: Beyond Accountability for Reasonableness.” Public Health Ethics 2 (1): 59–69.

Lippert-Rasmussen, Kasper. 2001. “Two Puzzles for Deontologists: Life-Prolonging Killings and the Moral Symmetry between Killing and Causing a Person to Be Unconscious.” Journal of Ethics 5 (4): 385–410.

Lippert-Rasmussen, Kasper. 2003. “Moralen som teknologiens nidkære grænsedrager.” In Der må da være en grænse! Om holdninger til ny teknologi, [There must be a limit! On attitudes towards new technology], edited by Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, 11–38. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum.

Munthe, Christian. 1992. Livets slut I livets början: En studie i abortetik [The end of life in the beginning of life: A study in abortion ethics]. Stockholm: Thales.

Munthe, Christian. 1999. Pure Selection: The Ethics of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and Choosing Children without Abortion. Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.

Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board. 2013. Accessed October 31. http://www.bion.no/english/

Persson, Ingmar. 2004. Jämlikhet från början: Människovärdet i gen-och bioteknik [Equality from the beginning: Human dignity in genetic engineering and biotechnology]. Nora, Sweden: Nya Doxa.

Persson, Ingmar. 2009. “Rights and the Asymmetry between Creating Good and Bad Lives.” In Harming Future Persons: Ethics, Genetics, and the Nonidentity Problem, edited by Melinda A. Roberts and David T. Wasserman, 29–47.Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Page 234  |  Top of Article

Persson, Ingmar. 2012. “Could It Be Permissible to Prevent the Existence of Morally Enhanced People?” Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (11): 692–693.

Persson, Ingmar, and Julian Savulescu. 2010. “Moral Transhu-manism.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 35 (6): 656–669.

Persson, Ingmar, and Julian Savulescu. 2012. Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Petersen, Thomas Søbirk. 2001. “Generocentrism: A Critical Discussion of David Heyd.” Philosophia 28 (1–4): 411–423.

Petersen, Thomas Søbirk. 2004. “A Woman’s Choice? On Women, Assisted Reproduction, and Social Coercion.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7 (1): 81–90.

Petersen, Thomas Søbirk. 2005. “Just Diagnosis? Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis and Injustices to Disabled People.” Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (4): 231–234.

Petersen, Thomas Søbirk, and Kasper Lippert-Ramussen. 2007. “Prohibiting Drugs in Sports: An Enhanced Proposal.” In New Waves in Applied Ethics, edited by Jesper Ryberg, Thomas Søbirk Petersen, and Clark Wolf, 237–260. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Petersen, Thomas Søbirk, and Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen. 2012. “Ethics, Organ Donation, and Tax: A Proposal.” Journal of Medical Ethics 38 (8): 451–457.

Ryberg, Jesper. 1995. “Do Possible People Have Moral Standing?” Danish Yearbook of Philosophy 30: 96–118.

Ryberg, Jesper. 2012. “Punishment, Pharmacological Treatment, and Early Release.” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 26 (2): 231–244.

Ryberg, Jesper, and Thomas Søbirk Petersen. 2013. “Neuro-technological Behavioural Treatment of Criminal Offenders: A Comment on Bomann-Larsen.” Neuroethics 6 (1): 79–83.

Sandøe, Peter, and Stine B. Christiansen. 2008. Ethics of Animal Use. Oxford: Blackwell.

Savulescu, Julian, and Anders Sandberg. 2008. “Neuroenhancement of Love and Marriage: The Chemicals between Us.” Neuroethics 1 (1): 31–44.

Solbakk, Jan Helge, and Søren Holm. 2008. “The Ethics of Stem Cell Research: Can the Disagreements Be Resolved?” Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (12): 831–832.

Solbakk, Jan Helge, Søren Holm, and Bjørn Hofmann, eds. 2008. The Ethics of Research Biobanking. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics. 2013. Accessed October 31. http://www.smer.se/en/

Tamburrini, Claudio, and Torbjörn Tännsjö, eds. 2005. Genetic Technology and Sport: Ethical Questions. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Tännsjö, Torbjörn. 1991a. Göra barn: En studie i reproduktionsetik [Making children: A study in reproductive ethics]. Stockholm: Sesam.

Tännsjö, Torbjörn. 1991b. Välja barn: Om fosterdiagnostik och selektiv abort [Choosing children: On prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion]. Stockholm: Sesam.

Tännsjö, Torbjörn, ed. 2004. Terminal Sedation: Euthanasia in Disguise? Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

Tännsjö, Torbjörn, and Claudio Tamburrini, eds. 2000. Values in Sport: Elitism, Nationalism, Gender Equality, and the Scientific Manufacture of Winners. London: E & FN Spon.

Thomas Søbirk Petersen
Jesper Ryberg

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3727600100