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UNESCO/IUBS/Eubios Living Bioethics Dictionary version 1.4

UNESCO/IUBS/EUBIOS Bioethics Dictionary


Editor-in-chief: Darryl R.J. Macer





























AUTHORS*: DM= Darryl R.J. Macer, Eubios Ethics Institute, New Zealand and Japan, and University of Tsukuba, Japan; IP=Irina Pollard, Macquarie University, Australia; MP= Morgan Pollard, Southern Cross University, Australia; JA= Jayapaul Azariah, All India Association of Bioethics, India; FL=Frank Leavitt, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; MR=Michael Reiss, Institute of Education, UK; AG = Avi Gold, Israel; GK=Genoveva Keyeux, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia; RW= Rick Weisburd, University of Tsukuba, Japan.

Edition 1.4: Eubios Ethics Institute, 11 December 2005

We want global feedback on this draft of the dictionary, as a freely accessible on-line dictionary. It is accessible through the Internet site to download as a MS Word file from Eubios Ethics Institute web site:

Updates will be listed in a separate file with a list of undefined words. This is edition 1.4 and contains many internal cross-linkages compared to the 2004 edition 1.3. More of the following words will be defined, and further entries will be added. It is expected to then produce a hard copy, which will be distributed widely without profit. Please also note that the Dictionary is available on the EubiosCD, available from Eubios Ethics Institute, including 1500+ papers, reference materials and 19 books (US$200). Eubios Ethics Institute

The suggested way to use the dictionary will be to download the file to your own computer. We hope that you will contribute to this global living dictionary project, so that we can better understand the terms we use. This dictionary is more than bioethics for biologists, or any other field, it is multidisciplinary and cross-cultural. Help us make it better!

This edition contains close to 4000 entries, and you can use it for your personal or educational use. It is copyrighted for commercial uses to Eubios Ethics Institute. We welcome additional words, and comments on existing entries. Please Email these to the editor in chief, Email:, with the subject line "Bioethics Dictionary". Mail address: Prof. Darryl Macer, Eubios Ethics Institute, c/o RUSHSAP, UNESCO Bangkok, 920 Sukhumvit Road, Prakanong, Bangkok 10110, THAILAND

The responsibility for each entry rests with the authors, and it does not imply that these are the views of UNESCO, IUBS, Eubios Ethics Institute, or any other coauthor. Its origin comes from the members of the IUBS Bioethics Committee. We will be adding more words, including some description of influential bioethicists, in the future, we welcome your suggestions.

*Less than 50 definitions is acknowledged as a contributor, which so far includes: AB= Alireza Bagheri MD, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba Science City, Japan; AZ= Aliza Zeidman MD, Deputy Head, Internal Medicine B, Rabin Medical Center, Hasharon Hospital, Petah Tikva, Israel; BP= Barbara Prainsack, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna, Waehringerstra_e 28, 1090 Vienna, Austria; DR= Derek Roberts; HM=Huw Morgan; JW=Jenny Wilkinson; MN=Mary Ann Chen Ng; MV= Mike Vandeman; PC= Prof. Carlo Petrini, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Roma, Italia; PW=Peter Whittaker; RNS= R.N. Sharma, Pune, India; SG=Shimon Glick MD, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel; SG2 = Dr Steven Gilbert Director, Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (USA). VT= Verena Tschudin, Ph.D., 26 Cathcart Road, London SW10 9NN, UK; Editor, Nursing Ethics.

Further Acknowledgements: Irina Pollard acknowledges the help with the Aboriginal definitions and for learning about Aboriginality from Mr. Stephen Williams, Aboriginal Wiradjuri elder and Jenny Heller, lecturer in the Eora Centre for Aboriginal Studies. We also acknowledge the assistance of Naoko Kimura and V. Manoj in preparation of this version.


































AAT or alpha-1-antitrypsin: A protein which in deficiency causes a lung disease called emphysema, due to altered regulation of the enzyme. AAT can be produced through genetic technology in the milk of sheep, by transfer of the human gene to the sheep. One sheep made to produce AAT is called Tracy. (JA)

ABM: Anti-Ballistic Missile.

ABNORMALITY: Something that is not the normal. This term is used in the debate over fetal diagnosis in the selection of embryos or fetuses that have a trait that will cause disease. (See PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS). (DM)

ABORIGINAL. Original inhabitants of those parts of the world that were conquered and colonized with an overwhelming thrust aside of these populations to relatively isolated regions. These peoples are now called aboriginals, and are still found in many parts of the world: America (see AMERINDIAN), Australia (see AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL and Torres Straight Islander peoples), Guinea (Papuans), New Zealand (Maoris), etc. The natural admixture with the new settlers has been partially or totally absent, leaving a native community virtually untouched in biological and cultural terms. (See also AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL & INDIGENOUS) (GK)

ABORTION: The spontaneous or deliberate termination of pregnancy before the embryo or fetus has been born, or is viable outside the womb. Should be restricted to refer to the termination of a pregnancy after implantation of the embryo into the mother. Many countries have laws restricting access of mothers to abort their fetus. Some countries prohibit abortion outright, other countries allow for a range of conditions affecting the mother, and/or for fetal indications. Spontaneous abortions in the first trimester are due in 50% of the cases to chromosomal abnormalities (26% are due to trisomies, 10% to X monosomies, and the rest to triploidies, tetraploidies, or structural abnormalities). Moral issues have been extensively discussed for several millenium without resolution. (DM, FL, GK)

ABORTION ON DEMAND: Readily available legalized abortion, including abortion for personal or social reasons. (DM)

ABORTION IN JUDAISM: An extremely early Jewish source, the Mishna, (Tractate Ohalot not only allows abortion, but requires it when in cases when pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. The crucial issue according to the Mishna, is that "Her life is more important than its life." Among current authorities, there is no debate about the fact that abortion is sometimes permitted and required. The only debate is over the specific circumstances in which abortion would be indicated. The more strict, inspired by the writings of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, allow for abortion only when the life of the mother is in clear and certain danger. More liberal orthodox rabbis, inspired by the views of Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, allow for abortion when the mother's life is in probable but not certain danger, when her health although not her life is in danger, when her mental although not her physical health is in danger, and even when the mother is a married woman who became pregnant because of an extra-marital relationship. (FL)

ABSTRACT THOUGHT: A general concept, as opposed to a thought about a particular individual. PLATO (q.v.) and his followers believed that while an imagination or memory about an individual object or person might contain palpable characteristics like colour, sound, taste, smell or tactile feeling, abstract thoughts are totally spiritual with no palpable content. But David HUME (q.v.) claimed that he had never experienced any such "spiritual and refined perceptions", and that all of his thoughts were really only particular images which might nonetheless be used in one's thinking to represent a large class of things. (In thinking about all dogs, for example, I might already have an image of a particular dog in my mind.)

Abstract thinking is really the same as thinking in generalizations, not thinking about "this particular cancer patient", for example, but thinking about "all (or most) cancer patients". Thinking in generalizations, or "epidemiologically", is a characteristic of Western conventional medicine. A new treatment is not accepted to replace an old one unless it works better in a "statistically significant" percentage of the tested population. Some Asian medical systems, like Ayurvedic and Chinese, are much more individualistic, and the doctor will prescribe a treatment only after observing many different characteristics of the individual patient. This makes it difficult to carry out conventional clinical trials on Asian medicine. Medical genetics, which is learning to spot genetically determined differences in patients' responses to drugs and environmental influences, may however cause a "paradigm shift" and make scientific but individualized medicine possible. (FL)

ABUSE: (Latin abuti 'to waste'). 1. the intentional or unintentional misuse of substances, drugs, equipment, programs and so forth 2. to physically or verbally attack or maltreat another; for example, an abused person is an individual who has been harmed by another person or situation. (See CHILD ABUSE; DRUG ABUSE; ELDER ABUSE). (IP)


ACCELERATING PACE OF CHANGE: Technological innovation, computing power, information in scientific journals, global population, environmental change and many other aspects of modern life are undergoing rapid if not exponential increases. This rate of scientific and technological change is increasing human opportunity but also social and environmental risk. We have become used to this acceleration of history, as surprising technological advances become commonplace news items. However, many of these changes are driven by corporate motivations and are often already developed before their full ethical consequences can be properly debated. Each technological advance is progressive from the previous technologies, so there is a certain "spike" in the future beyond which prediction may be impossible. (See CHANGE, FUTUROLOGY, MOORE,TECHNOLOGY) (MP)


ACCIDENT: Accidents are usually thought of as any events which were not intended. Some accidents, like auto accidents, are bad. Others, like accidentally finding a treasure trove of gold, are good accidents. Another kind of accident would be an event which unpredictable. By "unpredictable" is not meant "hard to predict", or "impossible to forsee given current knowledge or methods". What is meant is an event which even God, or someone with perfect knowledge of all preconditions and scientific laws, would not have been able to predict. Some people think that events of the kind which are studied in mathematical theories of chaos are accidental in this sense. But they are not, because chaotic systems are perfectly deterministic and predictable by means of mathematical functions. These functions are "non-linear", however. Whether or not an event is "accidental" is probably only a function of our ignorance. If we know the causes of an event, we say that it was determined. If we are ignorant of the causes, we call it "accidental". (FL)

ACCOUNTABLE: Emphasized liability for something of value either contractually or because of one’s position of responsibility (see ACCOUNTABILITY, RESPONSIBLE) (IP)

ACCOUNTABILITY: Responsibility for explaining or justifying one's conduct to the public or to one's superiors. Social responsibility includes the obligations of an individual or institution to society. (see RESPONSIBLE) (DM)

ACCURACY: 1. correctness; 2. the extent to which a measurement is close to the actual value of a quantity being measured. Accuracy is the correctness of a measurement compared to the actually existing value or standard. In mathematics the accuracy of a number is expressed by its number of decimal places or of significant digits (e.g. 3.14 is accurate to 3 significant digits). (See PRECISION) (MP+RW)

ACETYLCHOLINE (ACh): a major and widely distributed peripheral and brain neurotransmitter. ACh, first synthesized in 1867, is a cholinergic neurotransmitter with the primary function mediating synaptic activity of the nervous system and skeletal muscles. ACh is rapidly degraded by acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which prevents accumulation of the neurotransmitter. Naturally occurring ACh agonists include pilocarpine, muscarine (mushrooms) and arecoline (betel nuts). Symptoms of intoxication include salivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, visual disturbances, diarrhea, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, shock and possibly death. The best known antagonist is atropine but there is also scopolamine and related belladonna alkaloids, which are found in plants such as deadly nightshade. The ACh antagonists cause dryness of the mouth, increased heart rate, dilated pupils, difficulty swallowing, atazia, restlessness, hallucinations and coma. A number of insecticides and nerve gases block AChE which results in elevated levels of ACh that can be fatal; hence the use of atropine to contract these effects. (See Brain Neurotransmitters, DOPAMINE, POISON HEMLOCK, TOXICOLOGY). (SG2)

ACF: Australian Conservation Foundation.

ACGT: UK Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing, United Kingdom. It terms of reference are (1) to provide advice to Ministers on developments in testing for genetic disorders; (2) to advise on testing individuals for genetic disorders taking account of ethical, social and scientific aspects; and (3) to establish requirements, especially in respect of efficacy and product information, to be met by manufacturers and suppliers of genetic tests. (JA)

ACHIEVEMENT: The successful completion of tasks, plans and responsibilities, or other accomplishments whether from inspiration, heroism or hard work. Achievements may be assigned by the self or motivated by a teacher, and the goals realized may be personal or professional. The achievements of people are commonly compared by society using age-related tests in school, and experience-related tests in the workplace. (MP)

ACID: 1. A compound that yields hydrogen ions (H+) when dissociated in solution, reacts with bases to form salts and tastes sour due to its low pH value 2. Street slang for the hallucinogenic mood-altering drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), for example, "to drop acid" meaning to take LSD. (See ACID SOILS, LSD). (IP+MP)

ACNFP: Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes of GM Food.


ACT: Advanced Cell Technology is a biotechnology organization and is located in Massachusetts in USA. (JA).



ACT OF NATURE: a misadventure or casualty which is said to be caused by an 'Act of God'; that is, occasioned exclusively by forces of nature without the intervention of any human agency. An act of nature may be any accident produced by any physical force such as lighting strikes, tempests, perils of the seas, tornados, earthquakes etc. (See ACT OF PROVIDENCE). (IP)

ACT OF PARLIAMENT: a statute or law made by the sovereign with the advice and consent of those assembled in parliament. Acts of parliament form the written laws of the nation and are of three kinds: public, local or special, private or personal. The validity of a statute cannot be questioned in court. (IP)

ACT OF PROVIDENCE: an uncontrollable accident against which ordinary experience or foresight could not guard. (See ACT OF NATURE). (IP)




ACTIVISM: Self-initiated action and activity towards an ideological, political or environmental cause. Democratic countries encourage freedom of expression, and ‘protest’ may include petitions, public marches, civil disobedience and media attention. ‘Direct action’ is action outside the normal procedural system. There is opportunity for official activism from within charities, non-profit and non-government organizations. Workers’ activism may include mass refusals to work - the strike or industrial action. Creatively attracting the media to an issue is one method used by social and environmental activists - companies will often change destructive practices once exposed to the camera spotlight. Appropriating the power of media to a cause has been called ‘culture jamming’. The internet has created a forum for uncontrolled discussion and organization of activism, as well as the online vandalism of ‘hacktivism’. Sometimes activism can spill over, such as the riots at the anti-globalization protests of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization meeting. Non-violent direct action must be recommended, as violent activism undermines the cause and is sometimes branded ‘ecoterrorism’. Quite the reverse, most protest and activism works towards human rights and socio-ecological harmony, including the peace movement, civil rights movement and green movement. (See ALTERNATIVE PARADIGM , ANTI-GLOBALIZATION MOVEMENT, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, CULTURE JAMMING, DIRECT ACTION, DISSENT, ECOTERRORISM, GREEN MOVEMENT, HACKTIVISM, INDUSTRIAL ACTION, NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE, PEACE MOVEMENT, PROTEST, REVOLUTIONARY) (MP)


ACUPUNCTURE: A Chinese traditional system of healing. This system treats various ailments by means of inserting small needles into the skin briefly at specific locations. These locations are known as "acupuncture points", and groups of these points are classed together in "meridians", of which there are twelve major ones. The system of acupuncture is popular in East Asia, and in recent decades has gained prominence in the West as well, as a method of controlling pain. The theory behind acupuncture is quite complex, involving the interaction of different organs with the Five Elements (see FIVE ELEMENTS) and with Yin and Yang (see YIN AND YANG). The central texts on acupuncture are written in classical Chinese, although some texts have been translated. (AG)

ADA: American Disability Act of 1990 which prohibits discrimination in the workplace against a handicapped person who is otherwise qualified. The act came into effect from 1992. (JA).

ADA DEFICIENCY: Adenosime deaminase deficiency is a rare genetic disease that is caused by lack of functional adenosine deaminase enzyme, that causes an immunodeficiency disease. In 1990 it was the target disease of the first attempts at human gene therapy, and has been one of the few genetic diseases claimed to be cured by gene therapy (2001). (See HUMAN GENE THERAPY) (DM)


ADAPT: (Latin: adaptâre ‘to fit to’)The adjustment of behaviour, form or function as a result of changes in the surrounding environment or circumstances. For something to adapt, it must change or modify to suit a different purpose. Biology adapts during evolution, technology adapts to modernity, but most importantly for ethics, belief systems and human behaviours must adapt to suit an increasingly crowded and limited Earth. (See ADAPTATION, ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT, ADAPTIVE THINKING, HUMAN EXTINCTION). (MP)

ADAPTABILITY: The ability to adjust with changes in circumstances is an important attribute for effective learning, personality development, planning, management, marketing, development and technological implementation. (See ADAPTIVE THINKING) (MP)

ADAPTATION: 1. in evolutionary biology a particular structure, physiological process or behavior that provides an organism with an advantage to better survive and reproduce; 2. the evolutionary process which leads to the development or modification of an existing structure or function in response to a changed environment; 3. the physiological response of sensory receptor organs (vision, touch, temperature, olfaction, audition and pain) to stimuli from the continually changing environment; 4. the conscious or unconscious modification of an individual adjusting to changing social and cultural surroundings. (IP)

ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT: Adaptive management is handling, direction and control, which is responsive to changing circumstances. Ecological, sociopolitical and corporate management strategies are most effective when easily adapted and modified to accommodate changed environments, superior information or new motivations. This is a continuous dynamic process involving environmental and economic monitoring and assessment. Elements associated with adaptive management include: the collection and incorporation of new information, evidence-based management, adaptive modification of plans and strategies, the precautionary principle, strategic environmental assessment, environmental impact assessment, mitigation and contingency planning, taking opportunities rather than waiting for them, learning from the mistakes of others as well as your own, openness to innovation and responsiveness to critical input into the process. (See ADAPT, ADAPTIVE THINKING, PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT) (MP)

ADAPTIVE RADIATION: The evolutionary divergence of a lineage of organisms into different phenotypes. (See EVOLUTION, NATURAL SELECTION, RADIATION) (MP)

ADAPTIVE THINKING: The ability to change one’s mind on the basis of new information. The adaptive thinker has a tendency towards a neutral orientation, a curious investigative approach, takes pleasure from knowledge and new ideas, understands uncertainty, is able to say 'I don't know', and is willing to revise beliefs and opinions. (See ADAPT, ADAPTATION, ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT) (MP)


ADDICTION: (Latin: addicere ‘to devote’) Compulsive, uncontrollable dependence on a substance, habit or practice to such a degree that cessation causes severe emotional and/or physical responses; however, the term is most often used in the context of drug addiction. Because drug addiction is a difficult concept to define, a WHO expert committee in 1970 substituted the words "drug dependence" which is characterized by psychological symptoms such as craving and a compulsion to take the drug on a continuous or periodic basis, with serious emotional and physical side-effects developing when the drug is withheld. The drugs of major concern (all causing physical and/or psychological symptoms of dependence) are alcohol, nicotine, the opiates, the sedatives particularly barbiturates, stimulants such as cocaine and the amphetamines, the hallucinogens like mescaline and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and cannabis also known as marijuana, pot, dope or hashish. Although government concern centers primarily on illegal drug abuse such as heroin, the adverse effects of these is relatively small in comparison with the very large number of people dependent on alcohol and tobacco. Furthermore, few addicts confine their intake to a single substance, and synergistic interactions are often many times more hazardous than the additive effects would indicate. Dopamine is the messenger of the brain’s reward systems and has been dubbed the courier of addiction because many paths of pleasure in the brain employ dopamine messengers in their reinforcement. Many addictive drugs, likewise, alter dopamine in the brain and stimulate this reward system. For example, the "buzz" described by those taking amphetamines (better known as speed), or the "rush" of snorting cocaine, is the subjective "high" of the sudden increase of brain dopamine activity that these drugs stimulate. Consequently, it is not entirely by accident that the ingenious human species has discovered the psychic or emotional effects - often with pain and illness to themselves and their offspring as a result - of the natural intoxicants like alcohol, tobacco, opium and cocaine. Therefore, there is no substitute for personal responsibility and intelligent realism when it comes to caring for oneself, and if that fails judicious pharmacological intervention plus a program of self-education seems the best approach to treatment and prevention (Latin addicere to devote) (see DRUG TOLERANCE, FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME, GAMBLING ADDICTION, INDIVIDUAL DRUG ENTRIES, INTERNET ADDICTION,). (IP)

ADENINE: Commonly abbreviated as A, one of four nitrogen containing bases in nucleotides, a component of DNA and RNA. (JA)



ADOLESCENCE: the period between childhood and adulthood when, typically, dependence and immaturity are replaced by independence and maturity. In the USA it is the age designation for humans 13-18 years old. Adolescence is a time of emotional fluctuation and vulnerability due to the biological effects of rising sex hormone secretion and heightened libido. It may be a time of identity crisis, changing body image, experimentation with sex roles and sexuality (see PUBERTY). (IP, DM)

ADOPTION: The bringing of someone into a relationship that (s)he did not previously enjoy. Normally used to refer to the taking into a family of a baby or young person. Such adoptees generally have the legal privileges of natural daughters and sons. Refers to the integration of a child, born to another couple, into a family who decides to take care, educate and give love to this child. Law rules strictly the qualifications needed for adoption; usually, it is requested that the couple be composed by father and mother, but in some occasions, a single mother or father is also allowed to adopt. Third world countries bestow an elevated number of children for adoption to couples from wealthy countries. Usually, children for adoption have been previously abandoned or given to special institutions for this purpose. In most cases, these children are born to single women, whose economical situation does not allow them to raise a child, or are the outcome of rape. Unmarried pregnant young women in particular families are also sometimes forced by these to give their baby away for adoption. Since abortion is prohibited in most of these countries, they all have in the majority of cases no other way to solve the problem. Many hundreds of children around the world are adopted per year, but still many more remain in institutions awaiting for someone to give them a better life. In some countries, like Japan, adoption of older persons occurs. (MR+GK)

ADRENAL GLANDS: Paired organs situated on top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland is in fact two separate glands: a) the adrenal cortex (the outer portion) which synthesizes three principal classes of hormones - the glucocorticoids such as cortisol (implicated in stress physiology), the mineralocorticoids such as aldosterone (implicated in ionic balance of body fluids) and smaller amounts of sex hormones such as androgens and estrogens and b) the adrenal medulla (the inner portion) which consists of sympathetic neurons that secrete adrenaline and noradrenaline facilitating the alarm reaction of the General Adaptation Syndrome. (See ADRENALINE, GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME, HOMEOSTASIS). (IP)

ADRENALINE: (Latin ad 'at' + ren 'kidney') Also known as epinephrine, is the 'fight-or-flight' hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla and affecting circulation, muscular action and general arousal. It also acts as a catecholamine neurotransmitter and provides the reaction sought after by the so called "adrenaline junkies". (See ADRENAL GLANDS, ADRENALINE JUNKIE, GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME,). (IP+MP)

ADRENALINE JUNKIE: A person who habitually engages in risk-taking behavior such as extreme sports, due to a more than usual enjoyment in the associated releases of adrenaline or related hormones and neurotransmitters. (See ADRENALINE, JUNKIE) (MP)

ADULTS: Important for definition in relation to consent. Varies between countries. In the USA it is the age designation for humans 19-64 years old, with those 65 years and older being referred to as the aged. For bioethics purposes those persons 18 years and older are given legal competence in most countries. (See INFORMED CONSENT). (DM).

ADULTERY: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and any other than the lawful spouse. In many countries adultery has been the principal ground for divorce and in earlier periods was even punishable by death, but despite legal and cultural prohibitions adultery has persisted throughout history. Various published surveys originating in the west have indicate that at least 50% of married men and women admit to having sexual intercourse after marriage with a person other than their spouse. From the biological perspective, the practice may represent a subconscious desire to outbreed and gain fitness by increased genetic diversity. (See CONCUBINE, COURTESAN, CUCKOLD, DIVORCE, MARRIAGE, MISTRESS, OPEN MARRIAGE, SPERM COMPETITION, SWINGING). (IP)

ADVANCE DIRECTIVES: Declarations by patients, made in advance of a situation in which they may be incompetent or unable to decide about their own care, stating their treatment preferences or authorizing a third party to make decisions for them. These include various documents including Durable power of attorney, Living wills, Psychiatric wills, Donor cards. (See also EUTHANASIA, LIVING WILL, RIGHT TO DIE). (DM+IP)

ADVERSARIAL SYSTEM: A system or process which relies on two or more opposing sides to resolve conflict and make decisions. Adversarial government systems and legal process may engender conflict, bickering and ‘zero-sum’ bitterness, rather than the consensus of collaborative processes. Adversarial competition between corporations and governments results in duplication of work and effort. On the other hand, adversarial iterations and destructive criticism of theories are the backbone of progress in science. (See COLLABORATION, CONFLICT RESOLUTION, GAME THEORY, TEAMWORK) (MP)

ADVERSE EFFECT: a clinical or perceived undesired effect of a chemical or physical agent. (SG2)

ADVISORY COMMITTEES: Committees or commissions set up to advise governmental bodies or other institutions on public policy . (See also ETHICS COMMITTEE , REVIEW COMMITTEE). (DM)


AEROBE: (Greek: aer 'air') Any microorganism that lives and grows on free oxygen (Greek: aer
air + bios life). (See ANAEROBE). (IP)

AEROBIC: Pertaining to the presence of air or oxygen, or requiring oxygen for the maintenance of life (Greek aer air) (see AEROBIC EXERCISE, ANAEROBIC). (IP)

AEROBIC EXERCISE: any physical exercise which requires additional effort by the heart and lungs to meet the increased respiratory demand for oxygen. The activity is beneficial for all body components and it is significant to note that physical activity need not consist of an organized exercise program because simple pleasures, such as bush walking, gardening and other homely physical activities, also burn off excess calories which, if unused, turn to fat. Regular gentle aerobic exercise is important in pregnancy, however, since pregnancy requires a high degree of reflex coordination high impact sports needing a good sense of balance; such as water and snow skiing, diving, ice skating and riding, should be avoided. (See ANAEROBIC EXERCISE). (IP)


AEROSOLS: are small particulates both natural and synthetic which are potentially of great importance climatically. The general trend suggests that they are increasing over the globe, particularly over industrial regions of the Northern Hemisphere where they reduce solar radiation reaching the surface of the Earth. The colloquial epithet "aerosol abuse" has been used to highlight harm caused from industrial aerosols by the environmentally irresponsible (see NUCLEAR WINTER). (IP)

AESTHETICS: The appreciation of beauty and appearance. (DM)

AFFECT: A transitive verb meaning to influence (act on, move, impress) to produce change in something (e.g. in a system, disease, person). To affect is to produce an effect. (See CAUSATION, EFFECT) (MP)

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: The positive treatment of minority groups. Some say that positive discrimination is still discrimination, but affirmative action helps rebuild bridges of opportunity, and is a form of acknowledgement for past wrongs and the legacies of slavery, Colonialism and the dispossession of indigenous people. Examples of affirmative action include the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act (Australia), Indigenous land management, educational privileges, healthcare assistance and social welfare assistance. (See ACTIVISM, MINORITY GROUPS) (MP)

AFLOTOXINS: Fungal toxins, Aspergillus flavus, of peanut, corn toxins have carcinogenic substances. (JA)

AFRO-AMERICAN: This term is used to designate the African descendants born in the United States of America. It has replaced the terms of "colored" or "black", which had a racist connotation. The word also vindicates the cultural relationship of these American descendants with the African cultures. Afro-American is also used in a broad sense to designate the Afro-descendants of all America, North, Central and South. (GK)

AFRO-COLOMBIAN, AFRO-BRAZILIAN: In those countries of South America, where a considerable part of the population descend from African immigrants, these people recognize themselves as Afro-Colombians of Afro-Brazilians. Many cultural traits have survived admixture and imposition of the dominant European culture. This is particularly true in music, dance, funerary rituals, marriage, extended families, etc. In Colombia, some of these groups have even maintained a Bantu related language, a pidgin language called "palenquero". (GK)

AGAPE: In the Greek language, three verbs can be used for the English word love, namely eros, phileo and agapao. These there verbs mean sensual love, brotherly love and self-giving love respectively. Agape love indicates the supreme and a nobler form of love, as seen in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for all human sin. Both Jews and Gentiles have a practice of fellowship and brotherhood means. The name agape can also indicate such fellowship meal. (JA)

AGE: Age factors are used when age is discussed as in relation to a subject or problem example, age of consent, or age related quality of life.

AGE DISTRIBUTION: The demography of the comparative ages of individuals in a population, commonly graphed as a ‘population pyramid’. In developed countries with fewer children there is occurring a ‘graying’ of the population, whereas many less developed countries have the reverse, a ‘youth bulge’. Age distribution helps elucidate population trends, cohorts, generations, immigrations, emigrations, birth rates and mortality rates. (See AGE/SEX PYRAMID, COHORT, DEMOGRAPHY, LIFE CYCLE, POPULATION DISTRIBUTION) (MP)

AGE OF CONSENT: The age at which consenting sexual intercourse becomes legal, commonly at 16 years. More broadly, also the ages at which other rights of adults are conferred onto kids, such as driving, drinking alcohol and voting. (See ADULTS, INFORMED CONSENT) (MP)

AGE/SEX PYRAMID: The Age/Sex Pyramid is a frequency distribution histogram displaying population composition according to age group (vertical scale) and gender (left/right), useful for illustrating age-specific birth, death, disease, fertility rates etc. (See AGE DISTRIBUTION) (MP)

AGED: In the USA this is the age designation for humans 65 years or older. Many persons in modern society live into advanced age, so the definition of 65 years or older may not be ethically relevant. Homes for the aged, pension schemes, senile dementia, and ageism (age-related discrimination in access to health care or other social services) are important issues. (See QUALITY OF LIFE). (DM)

AGENDA 21: An environmental, social and economic action plan for the 21st Century based upon principles of sustainable development. Agenda 21 was arranged and approved by many countries during the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992). Although it suffers from negotiated compromise and is not legally binding, it is nevertheless an ambitious first international attempt to reconcile development and environment issues. (See CONVENTION OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, EARTH SUMMIT, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT). (MP)

AGENT ORANGE: the U.S. military code name of a mixture of herbicides used as a defoliant agent in Southeast Asia to deny communist soldiers jungle cover during the 1960s war in Vietnam. It is claimed that exposure to this agent is a cause of generations of birth defects and other inherited ailments including cancer, neuropathy and a variety of chronic diseases, however, confirmation of any such linkage would take decades of further research; thus, compensation demands from Hanoi and U.S. veterans are easily dismissed. Spraying was halted in 1971 when it was discovered that Agent Orange was contaminated with the highly toxic chemical dioxin, which is capable of harming human and animal health and has well-established multigenerational adverse health effects. Despite uncertainty as to the long-term effects of the wartime defoliant, there is the view that Washington and Agent Orange manufacturers, Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co., have a moral duty to compensate Vietnamese who have suffered from exposure. (See VIETNAM WAR, DIOXIN). (IP)

AGGRESSION: Hostile or malicious actions or behavior; the act of violating by force the rights of another individual or group, including territorial rights. Aggressive behavior may have a genetic component, however it is likely to be predominantly a learned response in humans, precipitated by environmental variables such as periods of stress. Males have a higher incidence of fighting, crime, verbal aggression and fantasy aggression, although females will aggressively protect their young. Human aggression can be reduced by a nurturing environment of social responsibility from a young age. (see AGGRESSOR NATION, DESENSITIZATION, VIOLENT MEDIA, WARFARE). (MP)

AGGRESSOR NATION: The nation state which attacks, initiates or first declares a situation of warfare with another nation. Although it may sometimes be difficult, due to historical and social circumstances or wartime propaganda, the decisive determination of who was the aggressor nation can be a useful step in ethical conflict resolution, mediation and peace enforcement. (See INSTITUTION OF WAR, PEACE ENFORCEMENT) (MP)

AGRICULTURE Cultivation of crops and domestication of farm animals. Seems to have happened independently around 10 000 to 8000 BCE in the Middle East, the Orient and the Americas. Involves four processes: (1) Breeding of animals or sowing of seeds; (2) Caring for the animals or plants; (3) Collecting produce (e.g. harvesting, milking, slaughtering); (4) Selecting and keeping back some of the produce for the next generation. (MR)

AGING: A natural biological process beginning soon after birth, and ending with death. In most ancient cultures, youngsters honored aged persons, seen as experienced, wise people. Still sometimes in aboriginal groups, one of the old men or women is chosen as the shaman, and given the religious, medical and political leadership of the whole community. Today, aging is seen in western countries as a fatal issue of life, and many hope that, with ongoing progress of biomedical sciences, its happening will be thrown back many years. Also, due to better life conditions and health care programs, people get older than decades before. In both cases, a high input of money and human endeavor is needed to give aging people an adequate life quality. Ethical considerations must balance the justification of these efforts face to other more poignant problems of humanity, as is famine, misery, war mutilations, basic health care, etc. (GK)

AGNOSTIC: (Greek: agnostos 'unknown') Holding the belief that because nothing is known about the existence of God there is the need to keeps an open mind beyond physical/ biological phenomena. The Victorian biologist and philosopher T.H. Huxley coined the term stating that in his opinion the laws of Nature could quite satisfactorily explain all natural phenomena and could not find a logical need for the existence of God. [Greek agnostos unknown] (IP)

AGRICULTURAL ETHICS: The study of the ethical issues associated by agriculture, aquaculture and fishing. May also include forestry in common discussions, e.g. the Ethics in Food and Agriculture program on FAO ( There are numerous topics discussed in the use of agriculture, and some are reflected in documents relating to agriculture, including the debates over the use of animals, the concept of quality of life for animals, the concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield in fishing, the Land Charter, Peasant's Charter, the Pesticide Convention, and access to, and conservation of, genetic resources, for example. (DM)

AGRICULTURE: The planned cultivation and/or nurture of living organisms to provide food or other products, e.g. wool, cotton. Often also called farming. Origins are unsure, but commonly considered to be seen in the past ten thousand years of human culture. There are possible signs of agriculture in humans over the past hundred thousand years. Some agriculture is seen in other species as well, at much earlier points in history. (DM)

AGROBACTERIUM: (Agro = soil) Agrobacterium tumefaciens a common soil bacteria that can naturally carry genetic information (DNA) into plant cells by infecting wound sites on plant stems (JA)

AGRO-BIOTECHNOLOGY: The application of biotechnology to agriculture, such as the use of modern recombinant DNA technology in plant breeding programs to increase crop yield or disease resistance. In addition to creating genetically modified novel crop varieties, agro-biotechnology is also used by conservationists to maintain a viable global supply of germ plasm in order to safeguard future genetic diversity and a continuing crop inventory. (see AGROTECHNOLOGY, GENETIC ENGINEERING) (MP & IP)

AGROFORESTRY: (Agronomy + Forestry) A farming practice which integrates timber plantation with agricultural production on the same area of land. The combination of trees with crops not only provides a diversification of produce, but also provides habitat and protection from soil erosion and salinity. (See PERMACULTURE, TREE PLANTING). (MP)

AGRONOMICS: The economics of agronomy, for example the productivity of cultivation practices or the trade and distribution of agricultural products. (MP)

AGRONOMY: The science of agricultural cultivation, land and soil management, and the production of crops. (See AGRICULTURE) (MP)

AGROTECHNOLOGY: (Agronomy + technology) The application of science-based technology to agricultural production; the technological means by which humans exploit farm ecosystems, artificially eliminating natural species competition and manipulating the system to increase its yield of products of high value to humans. Examples include modern agricultural equipment such as hydroponics, agri-business such as large government-financed breeding programs, and agro-biotechnology such as genetically modified crops. (See AGRICULTURE, AGRO-BIOTECHNOLOGY). (IP & MP)

AHIMSA: The South Asian cultural ideal of being non violent. Mahatma Gandhi used the principle of non violence in his struggle for freedom from foreign occupation of India. (JA)


AID: Artificial insemination using donor sperm (see ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION).

AIDS: acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome - the clinical end stage of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection which results in severe, irreversible immune suppression. After sufficient immune system damage has occurred, the individual becomes susceptible to infection by many opportunistic diseases including cancers. These opportunistic diseases then become the indirect markers of AIDS; thus, AIDS is a syndrome or collection of many diseases resulting from HIV infection. The conditions was first noticed by doctors in the 1970s and formally described under the name acquired immune deficiency state in 1980. At first AIDS was identified as principally affecting two groups: drug users who shared needles and male homosexuals but now it’s principally spread by the heterosexual community and bisexual males, and can be passed through the placenta and breast milk to the children of those with the disease. HIV is a retrovirus that attracts and kills CD4+ lymphocytes (T helper cells) weakening the immune system’s ability to fight infection. HIV may also invade macrophages and brain cells where it reproduces freely, undetected by the immune system. The virus is not spread by casual contact but by sexual intercourse, semen and contaminated blood. All semen donors are initially tested for a variety of diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, which is repeated six months later (for possible recent infection still within the incubation period), before the donor product may be used in any IVF clinic.

A patient may be diagnosed as having AIDS if infected with HIV virus and a CD4+ count below 200-500 cells per milliliter of blood. Low cell count is usually accompanied by symptoms of extreme fatigue, intermittent fever, night sweats, chills, lymphadenopathy, enlarged spleen, severe diarrhea and weight loss, apathy and depression. Treatment consists primarily of combined chemotherapy, such as the antiviral drug AZT, to counteract the opportunistic infections but no cure has yet been found. Public awareness and sex education, particularly of adolescents, must remain a high priority. (See SYPHILIS). (DM+IP)

AIDS SERODIAGNOSIS: Immunologic tests for the identification of HIV (HTLV-III/LAV) antibodies; includes assays for HIVseropositivity and seronegativity which have been developed for detecting persons carrying the viral antibody. (DM+)


AIR POLLUTION: Gases, liquids and solids which, when added to the normal composition of the atmosphere, may be hazardous to biology, ecology or human health. Processes leading to pollution of the atmosphere include attrition, vaporization and combustion. Types and sources of air pollution include photochemical smog, transportation exhausts, incinerator emissions, forest fire smoke, industrial discharges, greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, CFCs etc.), suspended particulates, oxides of carbon and sulfur, inorganic and organic acids, toxic chemicals, trace elements, irritants and odors. Grit is sharp particulate matter such as dust which may cause skin and eye irritation. Grime is accumulated soot or dirt which adheres to a person or cityscape. Airborne particles may adsorb corrosive chemicals leading to the erosion of infrastructure and monuments. Air pollution epidemics are a recurring health problem in many major urban centers. Monitoring and regulation are beginning to improve in the developed world, with air pollution meteorology and models becoming more common in weather forecasts. Emissions may be controlled or reduced by absorption, adsorption, mechanical collection, air pollutant incineration, catalytic conversion, electrostatic precipitation, fabric filters, wet collectors, mechanical cyclones, smokestack scrubbers and other pollution control devices - often legally regulated but also self-initiated by visionary companies. (See ACID RAIN, ATMOSPHERE, GREENHOUSE GASES, POLLUTION, WATER POLLUTION) (MP)

AKIDO vs UESHIBA, MORIHEI: A Japanese martial art, based on ancient tradition derived from the Samurai. But while Japanese martial arts formerly combined both violent and peaceful aspects, Aikido is one of those arts which, after World War II, has been emphasizing the peaceful, seeing martial techniques as ways of discouraging a violent attacker without hurting him or her seriously, eventually leading to love and peace. It is for these reasons that martial arts can be important to bioethics. (FL)

ALCOHOL: (Arabic: alkohl 'subtle essence') A clear water miscible organic substance obtained by fermentation with one or more hydroxyl (OH-) groups; but in common parlance refers to the ethyl alcohol or spirit contained in any beverage such as wine or liquor. [Arab alkohl subtle essence] (see ALCOHOLISM, ETHYL ALCOHOL, FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME). (IP)

ALCOHOLISM: severe dependency on alcohol intake associated with cumulative destructive physical, reproductive and behavioral effects. The most serious medical consequences are central nervous system deterioration, liver cirrhosis and adverse reproductive effects. Alcohol abuse is the overuse of alcohol to the extent of habituation, dependence, or addiction (see ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA), FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME). (IP, DM)

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA): an international nonprofit organization, founded in 1935, made up of members whose purpose is to stay sober and help others to recover from the disease of alcoholism. The AA program guides members through a 12-step plan aimed at overcoming alcohol addiction through abstinence, group support, shared experiences and faith. (IP)

ALDRIN: A dangerous chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide, one of the 'dirty dozen' persistent organic pollutants. (See PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS) (MP)

ALEXITHYMIA: lack of emotionality or an inability to consciously experience and communicate feelings (see AXIODRAMA, EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE). (IP)

ALGAE: (Latin: alga "seaweed") A wide diversity of chiefly aquatic organisms comprising the seaweeds and various freshwater forms varying in appearance and size from single celled phytoplankton to multicellular macroalgae such as kelps. They are the Earth’s dominant autotrophs supplying 50-60% of all photosynthesis on Earth (see AUTOTROPHS, LICHENS). (MP & IP)

ALGAL BLOOM: A suffocating build-up of rapidly multiplying algae and bacteria, occurring in phosphorus enriched waterways caused by run-off sewage, fertilizers and the processes of eutrophication. The resulting increased biological activity transforms the water-mass green or red with large-scale decomposition rendering the habitat malodorous and toxic. Since all available oxygen is utilized by the bloom, anaerobic organisms begin to dominate the sediments, killing most of the animals from the previously viable aquatic habitat (see EUTROPHICATION, FISH KILLS). (MP & IP)

ALGEBRA: the branch of mathematics in which symbols (e.g. x,y,z) are used to represent numbers or variables in arithmetic operations. (See ARITHMETIC). (IP)

AL-GHAZALI: (1058-1111)- Muslim scholar, theologian and Sufi, author of "Ihya Ulum al-Din" ("Revivification of the Religious Sciences"). In his major work , "Ihya Ulum al-Din", Al-Ghazali explains and clarifies in four parts, the foundation of the beliefs of Islam, and the path of the Sufi. The first part deals with basic principles, the concept of worship in Islam and the importance of study and seeking knowledge. The second part deals with many matters of ethics. The third section deals with the evil traits that should be avoided, as they are an obstacle to approaching God. The fourth section deals with the stages of spiritual purification that are needed in order to attain salvation. (AG)

ALGORITHM: A set of steps or instructions which precisely describe a limited procedure or task. Computer programs are written in programming languages designed around the requirements for precision and coordination of sets of algorithms. (See ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGES, COMPUTER, GENETIC ALGORITHMS) (MP)

ALIEN LIFE: It is certainly possible, perhaps probable, that life is common across the universe. Readings from distant sources in the galaxy have detected some chemical constituents of chlorophyll and amino acids. One serious scientific theory proposes that ice from impacting comets may have delivered the first building blocks of life to Earth. Solar systems with planets similar to our own are relatively common, estimated conservatively by Harvard University’s Harlow Shapley at more than one hundred million for the visible universe. What arguably appear to be fossilized microorganisms have been discovered in a rock sample from Mars. The most likely prospects for life in our solar system are on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, which has a watery environment beneath its crust of ice. Despite healthy skepticism, Western popular culture continues to report flying saucers and alien abductions. Scientific evidence of intelligent alien life is less forthcoming, with the SETI project continuing the search. One significant theory proposes that intelligent life cannot be found because it quickly tends to destroy itself with its own technology. (See LIFE, ORIGIN OF LIFE, SETI) (MP)

ALIENS: Beings from another planet. Ethical issues relating to the human attitude to aliens has been extensively discussed in science fiction literature. The term is also used in Japan and the USA to refer to foreigners. (DM)

ALLAH: Allah is special name for God in Arabic. In Islamic belief, Allah alone is the true God for all that exists who has no partners or rivals. The Quran mentions 100 names for God, which in deed they are adjectives and each one expresses one of His attributes. Allah is not a descriptive name like other ninety nine names and attributes such as The Merciful, The Beneficent. The name Allah, itself contains all these attributes. There is no consensus that the word Allah is compounded of "al" the definite article and "ilah", meaning "a god". The Qur`an mentions the word "Allah" have also been used in pre-Islamic times.This word is used by all Arabic speaking, Muslims, Christians Jews and others. (See QURAN) (AB).

ALLELES: Alternative forms of a genetic locus; alleles are inherited separately from each parent (e.g. at a locus for eye color there might be alleles resulting in blue or brown eyes). (DM) Alleles arise through mutations in a given DNA sequence. If the locus codes for a protein, alleles can result in different phenotypes. Alleles can be dominant (a single dose is sufficient for expression of the phenotype) or recessive (both genes must carry a mutant allele in order to express the trait). At the genotype level, the alleles at a given locus are co-dominant. Different alleles can also be found in silent regions of the genome (the non-coding part of the genome) (See RFLP, SNPS, STR, VNTR). Some loci are bi-allelic, having only two alternative forms, but the most useful loci for gene mapping, population studies and human identification analyses are those which are multiallelic, resulting in a high polymorphism content of the locus at the population level. (GK)



ALLOGRAFT: (Greek allos "other" + graphion "stylus") also called homograft, a non-permanent graft of tissue between two genetically different individuals of the same species such as a tissues transplant between two individuals who are not identical twins. The graft material can include, for example, cadaver skin stored in a tissue-bank. (See AUTOGRAFT, XENOGRAFT). (IP)

ALLOPATRIC SPECIATION: Evolutionary divergence of populations which forms different species due to geographic separation, which do not interbreed. (JA)

ALLOPATRY: (Greek: allo "other" and Latin: patria "homeland"). Occupying different geographic distributions or ranges. (See ALLOPATRIC SPECIATION, SYMPATRY) (MP)

ALLOSTASIS: (Greek: allo 'variable' + stasis 'stability') literally 'achieving stability through change' describes the mechanisms which enable the body to withstand challenge. Allostatic systems, particularly the nervous, hormonal and immune complexes, protect the body by adapting to the ever-changing internal and external demands made on it. Allostatic load refers to the price of adaptation; that is, the accumulated wear and tear from chronic over- or underactivity of the allostatic systems (see HOPE, STRESS, WELLBEING). (IP)


ALLOWING TO DIE: Thee withdrawal or withholding of life-prolonging treatment. This is often referred to as Passive euthanasia, and is sometimes effected through Do not Resuscitate (DNR) orders. (See also EUTHANASIA, FUTILITY, PROLONGATION OF LIFE, RIGHT TO DIE, TERMINAL CARE, WITHHOLDING TREATMENT). (DM)


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