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EPISOME: A DNA molecule that may exist either as an integrated part of a chromosomal DNA molecule of the host or as an independently replicating DNA molecule (plasmid) free of the host chromosome. (DM)

EPISTATIC: Several genes can act on a genotype in modifying its phenotypic expression. This phenomenon has been described for mendelian disorders with complete penetrance, like Cystic Fibrosis, where the same mutated genotypes can have varying degrees of severity of the clinical symptoms. It is presumed that proteins encoded by other genes can modify the original impairment of the CFTR-encoded ion channel. In the case of this disease, epistatic and epigenetic factors, although not yet characterized, are important issues in genetic counseling. (GK)


EPISTEMOLOGY: (Greek: epistemo ‘knowledge’) The branch of philosophy which studies knowledge. The nature, scope, limits, inference, justification and change of knowledge/belief are concepts of epistemology. Aspects of knowledge include: belief, certainty, doubt, opinion, explanation, interpretation, possibility, skepticism. Sources of knowledge may be sensations, reason, introspection or memory. Epistemology can be considered a ‘theory of knowledge’ or ‘theory of cognition’. Is there an architectural structure of knowledge able to provide agreed meaning? Some philosophers who contributed to epistemology include Descartes, Kant, J.S. Mill, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Hegel, Gettier, Foucault and Pyrrho of Elis. (See KNOWLEDGE, META-KNOWLEDGE, ONTOLOGY) (MP)

Epistemology, or Theory of Knowledge,is the study of how we know, and to what extent we can be sure that our knowledge is true. So epistemology is inseperable from the philosophy and methodology of science. And epistemology of bioethics would be a study of how we can know whether our bioethical opinions are right or wrong. Surely a survey of opinions would not answer the question, because the opinions of a radical reformer might be right, but might be quite unpopular, at least at the beginning. Nor can be say that we can find out what is bioethically true by looking at religious sources. Although religious sources, like the Bible, might be the inspiration for much deep bioethical thinking, such sources are notoriously unclear about details, and open to a variety of interpretations. A good example is the abortion debate within Judaism, where even among the orthodox there is a wide variety of opinions, ranging from the extremely strict to the quite liberal. Since the same sources are available both to the strict and to the liberal, we can be sure that the sources do not decide the issue. Utilitarianism (q.v.) was developed by Bentham and Mill as an attempt at an epistemology of ethics. They thought that it would be possible to sit down and calculate what act causes the greatest pleasure and the least pain, and is therefore the most ethical.(see the discussion under UTILITARIANISM, ACT AND RULE, in this Dictionary.) Because of the difficulties of developing a scientific method in ethics, emotivist doctrines (see the discussion under EMOTIONS, EMOTIVISM in this Dictionary) are quite popular. The easiest way to solve the problem is simply to say that words like 'good" and "bad" are simply ways of expressing our feelings about things. So moral statements are neither true nor false, but simply a matter of taste. It is hard to accept this doctrine because it is obvious that statements like "Torturing children is bad" are obviously true. So the search for an epistemology of bioethics is still urgent. (FL)

EPISTEMOLOGICAL: Epistemological (or ‘epistemic’) is an adjective referring to something with relation to knowledge or belief e.g. an epistemological framework may comprise a certain cognitive stance, Weltanschauung (‘world-view’) or paradigm. (See EPISTEMOLOGY, KNOWLEDGE, PARADIGM, WORLD VIEW) (MP)




EQUAL PROTECTION: The constitutional or legal guarantee that no person shall be denied the same legal protection enjoyed by others in like circumstances. (DM)


EQUINOX: Two times in each year when the Sun is vertically overhead at the equator (21st March and 22nd September), and daylight and night are equally long. (See SOLSTICE) (IP)

EQUITY: Fairness or JUSTICE (q.v.). Precisely what constitutes fairness and justice is a large question in bioethics. (MR+GK)

ERGONOMICS: The relation of humans with machines, in particular the study of body posture in relation to engineering. Ergonomics includes features of chair design, tool design, positioning of dials, room layout and computer interface which correspond to healthy body form. For those at a machine, desk or computer for long hours, an ergonomic chair and workplace are essential for preventing stress, fatigue, neck strain, back injuries, deep-vein thrombosis, sprained muscles and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Good posture and movement, correct distance, stretching, work rotation and ergonomic furniture are all healthy aspects of the workplace. (See REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY) (MP)

ERIN: Environmental Resources Information Network (Australia).

EROS: the ancient Greek God of love and sex (known in the west as the winged cherub Cupid). It was believed that Eros participated at the very beginning of creation and from humankind’s inception directed and regulated the life and happiness of all. Owing to his multi-faceted characteristics, which effectively recognized the combined elements of love’s carnal somatic and psychic dimensions, this God was honored and exalted above any other. It was believed that the communication between the inner psychic and the prolific fertile somatic domains was the ideal way of existence in biological terms as it led to the genesis of spiritual goodness and a longing for immortality. (IP)

ERROR: (Latin errare 'to wonder'). In research the uncertainty in a measurement or estimate of a quantity. Uncertainty should be expressed when a temperature, for example, is readable only to the nearest degree Celsius - this temperature should then be documented as 20}0.5_C meaning that the true value lies between 19.5_C and 20.5_C. Unpredictable random errors may occur in any direction and cannot be compensated for, however, systematic predictable errors that arise from faults/inaccuracies in instruments or changes in conditions can be corrected for. (See ESTIMATE). (IP)

ERYTHROPOIETIN OR EPO: is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the kidneys which stimulates the bone marrow to produce more erythrocytes or red blood cells. Synthetic EPO has gained disrepute because of its illegal use by athletes. The theory behind its popularity is that since red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, hormone-driven increases in cell numbers will also lead to increased oxygen availability and better body performance; for instance, an elite cyclist can travel anywhere between 70-75 km/h but with increased oxygen carrying capacity the rider can potentially reach that speed more quickly and hold it for longer periods. Until recently EPO abuse has been difficult to detect because the synthetic form could not be distinguished from the naturally occurring form. However, technology developed by Australian scientists can now identify biological markers which allow drug-testing authorities to identify the synthetic hormone up to four weeks after the last dose. EPO drug testing was first approved for use in the Sydney Olympic Games in October, 2000. (IP)

ESCHATOLOGY: (Greek: eskhatos 'last') 1. Theology: the branch of religious theory concerned with last things; in particular death, the 'end of the world', and our individual and collective ultimate fate in different religious philosophies. Some traditional 'after-death' circumstances such as divine judgement have been philosophized to occur also on Earth during the lifetime; this is 'realized eschatology'. (See LIFE AFTER DEATH) 2. Science: theoretical physics also contributes towards eschatology, with current cosmological models tending to favor the 'heat death' of the universe over the 'big crunch', depending upon the mass of the mysterious 'dark matter' of the universe. (See BIG CRUNCH, HEAT DEATH, OMEGA POINT THEORY) 3. Strategy and management: the study of logical endpoints and the projection of processes or philosophical models to their ultimate inferred conclusion. Eschatological analysis illuminates the long-term, identifying philosophical directions for problem-solving and decision-making. This can also expose certain ironies inherent in common assumptions about human behavior - for instance, the eschatology of capitalism without regulation or ethical restraint seems to be a final person/company/country with all the fluid capital and an almost total majority with nothing or next-to-nothing. (See INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT, VISION) (MP)


ESOTERIC: Typically used to mean 'rarefied and so of little relevance' but originally used with reference to philosophical debates to mean 'meant only for the initiated'. In this sense, an esoteric argument could be difficult to understand but have major consequences. (MR)


ESPERANTO: An artificial language designed as a global lingua franca, Esperanto was first published in 1887 by the name 'Lingvo Internacia' by Ludwig Zamenhof under the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto ('Doctor Hopeful'). Esperanto is based on the European lexicon with Slavonic influences, and has various dedicated international journals, conferences and associations despite limited official status. (See ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGES, LINGUA FRANCA) (MP)


ESTIMATE: A rough calculation made to provide a preliminary answer to a problem indicating what the response may be if a variable is changed. (See ERROR). (IP)

ESTUARY: Semi-enclosed coastal waters at the junctions of rivers with ocean habitats, for example littoral basins, bays, inlets and harbours. Estuaries have a high biological productivity due to nutrient delivery and mixing processes. The salinity gradient between the fresh and salt water typically takes the form of a heavier saline wedge, mixed by flood and tidal flows. Major communities in the estuarine habitat may include juvenile fish, benthos, seagrass, mangrove, saltmarsh and wetland ecosystems. Estuaries are essential breeding grounds for many fish species and must be protected from habitat-damaging fishing practices such as trawling. Activities upstream can adversely impact the estuarine environment, for example agricultural runoff which may cause sedimentation and eutrophication. (See BENTHOS, COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT, EUTROPHICATION, LITTORAL, MANGROVE FOREST, SEAGRASS) (MP)


ETHICAL ANALYSIS: The application of ethical theory to specific moral problems. (DM)


ETHICAL INVESTMENT: Financial involvement in ethical companies and sustainable practices which cause no depletion of natural assets or environmental degradation, have no involvement in weapons, uranium, gambling, tobacco or alcohol, and do not infringe the rights of workers, women, indigenous people, children or animals. Many may not agree with or be aware of the ways banks and superannuation funds use community savings to fund corporations with non-sustainable practices. The claim that the market is essentially "amoral" can be countered when knowledge is made explicit of the effects of specific capital flows on the future environment and community. Credit unions, "friendly" societies and local community banks are more consciously managed in the interests of members. Sets of company principles, commercial transparency and consumer watchdogs all facilitate ethical investment. Ethical companies may be involved in alternative energies and sustainable development, or in the creative and information industries where money can be generated without the involvement of natural resources. Appropriate share portfolios can be developed using indexes such as the Domini Social Index (DSI) of US ethical investments, or managed through ethical investment funds like the Australian Ethical Investment Trust. The DSI and other ethical options can outperform the S&P 500 market index. The ethical and environmental sector has the potential to be a boom market as corporations are forced to address their responsibilities towards the planet. Shares in small, well-placed start-up companies dealing with environmental and information technologies generate risky but high returns. Marketing and promotion of ethical or environmental principles can increase consumer interest in a company. Visionary companies motivate with the use of well-defined goals, and sustainable corporations innovate with adaptable working conditions. In the realm of biotechnology companies, the ethics of an investment portfolio may be a matter of opinion. (See ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS, SUSTAINABLE CORPORATION, VISIONARY COMPANY) (MP)


ETHICAL RELATIVISM: The view that ethical principles vary, or ought to vary, among different groups or cultures. (See CULTURAL PLURALISM). (DM)

ETHICAL REVIEW: Committee review of patient care or research proposals for conformity with ethical guidelines. (See ANIMAL CARE COMMITTEES, ETHICS COMMITTEES). (DM)


ETHICIST, CLINICAL: A hospital, sick fund, or health management organization employee who participates in ethical decision making in clinical medicine. The employer-employee relationship requires care about potential conflict of interest. Clinical ethicists may be involved only in standard bio-medical issues like DNR (q.v.), truth-telling, coercive treatment, etc., or might be called in to consult on questions of medical negligence, malpractice and the like. In some places, patients and their families are charged for ethics consultations. If the consultation is about withdrawing care from a terminal patient, the family may find themselves in a situation where the patient will not be allowed to die unless an ethicist's fee is paid.

It can be debated whether hospital ethicists are necessary or whether it would be better to encourage physicians and nurses to study ethics deeply and to take more direct responsibility for their decisions. If it is acknowledged that physicians are in the need of someone to observe and criticize their ethics, it can be debated whether the idea of the clinical ethicist is really the best solution, or whether nurses -- who are aware of everything going on in the wards anyway -- should be encouraged to speak out more, and to take more part in clinical ethical decision making. It can also be debated whether those who are learned in bio-medical ethics can make the best contribution by becoming clinical ethicists or whether they might contribute more as educators in medical and nursing schools, teaching physicians and nurses to understand ethical issues more deeply. (FL)

ETHICS: A system of moral principles or standards governing conduct. 1. a system of principles by which human actions and proposals may be judged good or bad, right or wrong; 2. A set of rules or a standard governing the conduct of a particular class of human action or profession; 3. Any set of moral principles or values recognized by a particular religion, belief or philosophy; 4. The principles of right conduct of an individual. Ethical behavior requires the ability to reason, to understand the consequences and to make choices about one’s actions. As modern society changes and advances are made in technology, the prevailing ethical standards need to also evolve to incorporate changing social and cultural options (see Moral Philosophy) [Latin ethicus or Greek ethikos pertaining to "ethos" or character].

Traditional ethics was divided into Substantive ethics or meta ethics. Substantive ethics deals with "what are the rules?" and includes the utilitarian and Kantianism concepts, often both agree on practical applications. In Kantianism actions must subscribe other people as "ends in themselves" and not as means to the ends of others or for self-gratification. In utilitarianism actions are assessed on the basis of their anticipated consequences (good actions maximize happiness or minimize unhappiness). (DM, IP, JA)

ETHICS COMMITTEE: Committees established by groups such as professional organizations to consider ethical issues. See INSTITUTIONAL ETHICS COMMITTEE. (DM+FL)

ETHICS-OF-CARE a more encompassing theory of bioethics incorporating the group-point of view; that is, an emotional commitment to, and willingness to act on behalf of persons with whom one has a significant relationship (See ETHICS-OF-RIGHTS). (IP)

ETHICS-OF-RIGHTS is a theory of bioethics which emphasizes the self-awareness point of view; that is, empowered by being informed or care through self-awareness (See ETHICS-OF-CARE). (IP)

ethnic cleansing: The mass expulsion or extermination of people from a minority ethnic or religious group within a certain area and who, in many instances, had lived in harmony for generations prior to the outbreak of national hostilities. Well publicized examples include ethnic atrocities experienced in the former Yugoslavia where the full extent of carnage committed, particularly between Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims, may never be revealed. War violates fundamental human decency but it is at its worst when actions are taken against the civilian population who then is subjected to atrocities such as rape, assassinations, massacres, torture and ethnic cleansing. (See BIOLOGICAL WARFARE, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, EUGENICS, EXTERMINATION, GENOCIDE, INSTITUTION OF WAR, INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER). (IP)

ETHNOCENTRISM the belief that one’s ethnic group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to all others. It is coupled with a generalized contempt for members of other ethnic groups [Greek ethnos = nation]. (IP)

ETHOLOGY: The science of behavior, behavioral patterns of individuals and communities. (JA)

ETHNOGRAPHY: A part of anthropology to study racial characteristics and intra and inter cultural differences in their social, cultural and religious behavior. (JA)

ETHYL ALCOHOL: has the chemical formula C2H5OH and is the final product of fermentation of sugar by yeasts (see ALCOHOL). (IP)

ETHYLENE: Plant hormone involved in fruit ripening, gaseous at room temperature, capable of dispersal in environment. (JA)

ETHYLENE OXIDE: A disinfectant and an intermediate product in the production of various chemicals. Human exposure to ethylene oxide affects fertility. Its effect is classified as a substance “which should be regarded as if they impair fertility in humans” (JA).

ETYMOLOGY: Study of the history and evolution of words and language. (See CULTURAL EVOLUTION, LEXICOGRAPHY, LINGUISTICS, MEME, SEMIOTICS) (MP)

EUBIOS: Word coined in 1990 from the Greek Eu=good; Bios=life, to mean "good life". (DM)

EUBIOS ETHICS INSTITUTE: Institute founded in 1990 by Darryl Macer, in Christchurch New Zealand and in Tsukuba Science City in Japan. To review and update news and trends in bioethics from around the world, publishing books, journal and acting as a vehicle for interchange of opinions. Bioethics is broadly defined as life ethics, including both medical and environmental ethics, and environmental, ethical, legal and social issues arising from biotechnology. The organization is not for profit.Establishing networks of bioethics researchers, holding conferences and promoting bioethics education. The journal, Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics (EJAIB), is the official journal of the Asian Bioethics Association (ABA) and the IUBS Bioethics Program. The aim of the journal and books is to publish research papers, and relevant news, and letters, on topics within Asian Bioethics, promoting research in bioethics in the Asian region, and contributing to the interchange of ideas within and between Asia and global international bioethics. Asia is defined for the general purposes of this journal as the geographical area, including the Far East, China, South East Asia, Oceania, the Indian subcontinent, the Islamic world and Israel. More information on www site. (DM)

EUCALYPTUS: (from Greek: eu "well"+ kalyptus "covered", referring to the flower bud operculum). The eucalypts or "gum-trees" are a large genus of over 700 species of trees and shrubs endemic to Australia, making up the vast majority of forest habitat in that country. In addition to Eucalyptus, a new genus of eucalypts is now recognized: Corymbia, which includes the bloodwoods and ghost gums. Eucalypts are commonly cultivated worldwide, and provide valuable hardwood timber as well as eucalyptus oil used as a germicide and expectorant. (See SCLEROPHYLL FOREST) (MP)

EUCARYOTE: Cell or organism with membrane-bound, structurally discrete nucleus and other well-developed subcellular compartments. Eucaryotes include all organisms except viruses, bacteria and blue-green algae. Compare procaryote.. (DM)

EUGENICS: Attempts to improve hereditary qualities through selective breeding. See positive eugenics, negative eugenics, eugenics of normalcy. Eugenics is defined "as any effort to interfere with individuals" procreative choices in order to attain a societal goal". Word means "good breeding" from the Greek names Eugene and Eugenia expressing the notion of "well born" which was a celebration of parent’s belief that their offspring are especially blessed. The term was coined by Sir Francis Galton, an English scientist (1822-1911), based on studies of hereditary and Mendelian genetics. The eugenic idea has been abused in the past; for example, by the Nazis in the 1930s and early 1940s, and some countries have currently implemented social policies to promote eugenic principles, but generally modern eugenics is based on eliminating genetic disorders. (See ETHNIC CLEANSING) (DM+IP)

EUGENICS OF NORMALCY: Policies and programs intended to ensure that each individual has at least a minimum number of normal genes. (IP)

EUPHEMISM: (Greek: euphemismos "good speech") Terminology or language which puts a favorable connotation on a sensitive word. Early euphemisms probably arose as discreet references to revered deities. The use of euphemism for political, medical and sexual concepts flowered in the decorous and dignified language of Renaissance and Victorian aristocracy. These courtly circumlocutions were described as "euphuism" by John Lyly in his 1578 satire Euphues. Euphemisms may be created by widening concepts, semantic shifts, metaphor or phonetic distortion. Euphemism provides the useful bioethical function of avoiding offense and reducing unpleasant psychological associations from fearful or grievous situations such as death. However, euphemisms are also employed in deceit and propaganda to obscure embarrassing concepts and practices in politics (e.g. people’s democracy), economics (e.g. downsizing, economic rationalism), strategy (e.g. intelligence gathering, deterrence) and warfare (e.g. collateral damage, conventional weapon, smart bomb, friendly fire, freedom fighter, peace enforcement, pre-emptive strike and preventive war). (See AMBIGUITY, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, FRIENDLY FIRE, METAPHOR) (MP)

EUROPEAN PATENT CONVENTION: Under the European Patent Convention of 1978 the EPO was established as an international patent-granting authority. (JA)

EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE: A governing body for granting Patents on novel inventions. It examines a patent application whether it meets the patent criteria for patenting. The fee levied for a patent is used to run the EPO Patents granted can be challenged in a court of law by a third party by submitting an “opposition” to the EPO within 9 months of a patent award. The European Patent Organization is an umbrella organization for which the EPO acts as the executive arm, and as of July 2002 there were 24 member states, these members are the EPC contracting states. (JA)

EURYTYPIC SPECIES: A species which has a large tolerance to environmental change, typically with a wide geographical distribution. (See ENVIRONMENTAL GRADIENT, STENOTYPIC SPECIES) (MP)

EUSTRESS: Happy stress from the Greek eu meaning happy or well. In biology stress is essentially reflected in the total rate of all the wear and tear caused by life and, although it is impossible to avoid stress, a lot can be learnt about how to keep its damaging side effects to a minimum. Stress is personal - envigorating for some, devastating for others; thus, the stress experienced depends not so much on what we do or what happens but on the way we take it. Characteristics such as self-confidence, reliance, trust, esteem and a flexible motivation springing from an inner strength all lower distress and heighten eustress. Additionally, eustress increases productivity and learning, whereas prolonged distress has the opposite effect. (See DISTRESS, GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME, STRESS). (IP)

EUTHANASIA: The merciful hastening of death, often limited to willful and merciful actions to kill of one who is injured or terminally ill. ( in Greek "an easy death").(See DOCTOR-ASSISTED SUICIDE) (DM)


EUTROPHICATION: (Greek eu well + trephein to flourish). The addition of nutrient material, mostly from domestic sewage, some industrial wastes and the leaching of fertilizers from agricultural lands, into rivers and lakes with the subsequent flourishing of algae and microorganisms. This results in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and the potential suffocation of other aquatic organisms (See ALGAL BLOOM). (MP & IP)

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