Ethics, Culture and Relativism: Some Reflections on Teaching Medical Ethics in Contemporary Sri Lanka.


  • S N Arseculeratne
  • R Simpson
  • P D Premasiri
  • P V.R Kumarasiri


This paper is the first of two that set out to explore issues that arise at the interface between globalised systems of biomedicine and bioethics on the one hand and non-western traditions of medicine, healing and ethics on the other. At this interface, fundamental questions of relativism and context are in evidence. Here we offer a preliminary overview of these questions in relation to medical education in Sri Lanka and attempts by local scholars to develop curricula that incorporate indigenous traditions in ways that are both appropriate and realistic. In the paper, we argue for approa- ches that go beyond simply accumulating and juxtaposing know- ledge of different traditions. The strategy we advocate takes the experience of the medical student as the starting point for peda- gogical enquiry into different ethical traditions with an emphasis placed on their translation, evaluation and comparison. The promise of such an approach is a bioethics that makes beneficence, respect for life, honesty, truthfulness, dignity and respect central. but, through on-going dialogue, connects these values to the local moralities that inform all cultures of healing and care.

Author Biographies

S N Arseculeratne

Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

R Simpson

University of Durham, England, UK

P D Premasiri

Department of Pali & Buddhist Studies, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

P V.R Kumarasiri

Department of Community Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.






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