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MOTHER FETUS RELATIONSHIP: The relationship between the fetus or embryo and the mother in which the embryo is gestating. (DM)


MOXIBUSTION: Method of treatment involving the burning of moxa cones on the skin. Moxa is a plant substance, and this method is used in traditional Chinese medicine and related practices. (AG)

MRC: The Medical Research Council, for example of the United Kingdom.

MREC: Multi-centre Research Ethics Committee, United Kingdom.

MRI: short for magnetic resonance imaging. The procedure involves initiating a nuclear magnetic resonance in the body’s hydrogen atoms by passing a restricted amount of high-frequency radiation through the tissues of a patient’s body in the presence of a strong magnetic field. The computer can then convert this source of energy into a series of sectional pictures of the body’s internal structure without exposing the patient to harmful radiation; therefore, since the late 1980s, MRI technology has become one of the most valued diagnostic tools, particularly for researching normal and abnormal brain function. By means of functional magnetic resonance imaging it is possible to see the brain of an awake human subject "light up" in critical brain regions during certain sophisticated tasks, simply by monitoring differential oxygen uptake as indicated by changes in magnetism caused by differential blood supply to the areas of the brain at work. This method has helped scientists to further understanding of a variety of disparate functions including character change, depression, working memory and amnesia (see PET SCAN). (IP)

mRNA: Chemical (messenger ribonucleic acid) responsible for acting as the intermediary between DNA (q.v.) and PROTEINS (q.v.). (MR)

MSF: Médicins Sans Frontières (‘Doctors Without Borders’).

MUCOVISCIDOSIS: French name for cystic fibrosis. It refers to the predominant phenotype of a group of diseases which have in common a high viscosity of the mucous secretions, and mutations in the same locus, the CFTR gene. (See also CYSTIC FIBROSIS). (GK)

MULTI- : Combining prefix indicating more than one, multiples, multiplication, from Latin multus meaning ‘many’, ‘much’. (See ANTI-, INTRA-, INTER-, MACRO-, META-, TRANS-) (MP)

MULTICULTURALISM: A term emphasizing the diversity and cultural plurality of a melting-pot such as for example Australia, which contains indigenous Aboriginal groups, immigrants from the United Kingdom (1788-present), USA and China (gold rushes), Europe (WWII), South East Asia (Vietnam War) and the Middle East. The term has been criticized for emphasizing difference and encouraging an atmosphere of pluralism, but of course multicultural diversity is actually a desirable source of innovation, variety and exchange. (See CULTURAL PLURALISM, CULTURE, SBS) (MP)

MULTIDISCIPLINARY: (Multi- "many") Involving the input of information from many different academic disciplines and professions in collaboration to solve a particular management or development problem. (See INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT, INTERDISCIPLINARY, TRANSDISCIPLINARY) (MP)

MULTIFACTORIAL DISORDERS: Genetic disorders arising out of changes in several genes or in combination of with other environmental factors. Disorders whose genetic components are not the sole cause, but which work with other often environmental factors in determining a disease outcome. Multifactorial disorders include many cardiovascular diseases, most Alzheimer’s Disease of old age and some forms of diabetes. See POLYGENIC DISORDERS. (JA)

MULTILATERAL: Involving multiple parties or nations, as in a multilateral human rights agreement or trade association. (MP)

MULTIMEDIA: The combination of many types of digital media (e.g. text, pictures, audio, video, animation) into one application. Often the product is interactive software (e.g. CD-Rom or website), allowing users to determine their own pathways through information for their entertainment or training. The multimedia revolution is seeing the merging of media and communications industries into multimedia conglomerates able to deliver multiple services through internet and digital TV channels. Awareness of such trends in global media may be important for those wishing to disseminate accessible bioethical information. (See INTERNET, MULTIMODAL COMMUNICATION) (MP)

MULTIMODAL COMMUNICATION: Methods of communication which simultaneously employ several semiotic modes to deliver the message. The brain analyses our senses in this way naturally, but modern media and communications technology are increasingly using multimodal formats to deliver interactivity, garnish the message, supplement meaning, intersect cultural barriers, create advertising niches and increase the speed, flexibility and attractiveness of communications. The parallel delivery of several related messages may enhance the likelihood of comprehension across divisions of language and culture, but the trade offs may be simplification and loss of precision. (See MULTIMEDIA, SEMIOTICS) (MP)

MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES: Companies with business operations in multiple countries. The assets of major Multinational Companies (MNCs) are greater than some countries. (DM)

MULTIPLE PREGNANCY: A pregnancy with more than one embryo or fetus. The risks to the fetus increase the greater the number of fetuses in the same pregnancy. (DM)


MUMMIFICATION: A method of preserving the human body after death by means of special processes of drying and application of chemicals which prevent decay. This method was important to several ancient peoples who held that the body must be preserved whole in order for the spirit to survive in the spirit world. The most notable example of the practice of mummification is ancient Egypt, although examples of mummified human bodies have also been found in the Qadisha Valley in Lebanon, in the Andes, and in Takla Makan. Although most examples of mummified bodies in Egypt were human, the Egyptians also practiced mummification on certain animals which had special religious significance. (AG)

MUTAGEN: An agent (e.g. Ultraviolet light, X-rays, certain chemicals) that increases the frequency or extent of mutation. (DM)

MUTAGENESIS: A process that results in modification of a DNA sequence. (JA)

MUTATION: Any change in DNA sequence that results in a new characteristic that can be inherited. A term coined by Hugo De Vries during 1900s to indicate that individual plants and animals occasionally mute to give rise to new traits in the progeny. The term comes from a Latin word meaning "to change" which occurs in any gene and at random, heritable changes. Compare POLYMORPHISM, see TERATOGEN. (JA)



MUTUALISM: An associative relationship between two species in which there is mutual benefit to both partners, often simply referred to as symbiosis. An example of a mutualistic symbiosis is the interaction between algae and fungi to form lichens. (See COMMENSALISM, PARASITE, SYMBIOSIS). (MP)

MYCORRHIZA: Fungal endosymbionts of plant roots that facilitate plant access to resources (usually limiting) like dissolved inorganic nitrogen. Mycorrhiza of legumes reduce atmospheric di-nitrogen, thereby making it available for biological activity. (RW)

MYCOLOGY: A branch of botany, the study of the biology of fungi. (JA)

MYTHOLOGY: the collective body of tales belonging to ancestral peoples portraying predominantly supernatural characters or events. For example, in Greek mythology the loves, marriages and couplings of the Gods such as Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, produced generations of demigod heroes, who were then enlisted in the struggles for good which became both idea and symbolism for morality. (IP)
































NAFTA: The North American Free Trade Area provides for freer movement of investments, goods and services between Canada, the USA and Mexico, but not of people. (MP)


NAIETE: Literally “a complete environment”, an Australian Aboriginal word originating from the Cook Town region of Cape York. The Australian indigenous peoples were acutely aware that following the principles of sustainability was elemental if human and environmental wellbeing were to be safeguarded in this driest of continents. (See ANIMISM, AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES). (IP)

NANO- : (Latin: nanus "dwarf") One billionth, or ten to the power of minus nine. This is the scale relevant to atoms and molecules. (See Nanotechnology) (MP)


NANOTECHNOLOGY WEAPONS: K. Eric Drexler’s landmark book Engines of Creation also acknowledges nanotechnology as potential engines of destruction. Drexler warns that nanotechnology may contain power greater than the scale of the Earth, for example the ‘gray goo catastrophe’ which would see the extinction of humans and perhaps all carbon-based life. Replicating assemblers would have to be contained and controlled within secure physical defenses. In an interesting ethical twist, Drexler proposes that attempts to prevent of the technological development of these destructive capabilities is destined to fail for geopolitical reasons - and that our only savior is for a benign power to develop appropriate global nanotechnology defenses such as ‘active shields’ before the risk of misuse or an accident becomes too great. The dangers of nanotechnology and its emergent properties are already in the popular public consciousness (e.g. Michael Crichton’s Prey). The scale of potential effects to humanity warrants ethical attention, however small the likelihood may appear. (See BIOWEAPON, GRAY GOO CATASTROPHE, NANOBOT, ROBOTICS, SMART DUST, SPACE WEAPONS, SWARM INTELLIGENCE, VIRTUAL WEAPONS) (MP)

NARCOTIC: Tending to induce sleep or unconsciousness like a drug which produces a state of numbness (Gk narkotikos meaning numbing). (IP)



NATALITY: Birth rate, or new individuals per unit time, can be referred to as natality, the opposite of mortality. (See BIRTH RATE, MORTALITY) (MP)


NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE: A nationalized system of health insurance to citizens in a country, for example the system used to cover medical costs in the UK is called the NHS. (DM)



NATIVE TITLE LEGISLATION – AUSTRALIA: In an effort to establish traditional rights to land, it was ruled on 3rd June 1992 that Australia was not "terra nullius" in 1788; that is, native title to land survived the Crown’s annexation of Australia, because the continent had been occupied and managed by the customs and laws of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Edy Mabo (1937-1992) of Mer Island, Torres Strait, successfully fought for the recognition of indigenous peoples" right to their traditional lands (see MABO CASE). However, it is fair to also point out that there have been political backflips; such as John Howard’s (the leader of the liberal party and Prime Minister at the time) 10-point plan which, if implemented, effectively extinguishes Native Title. (IP)

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

NATURAL 1. pertaining to or produced solely by Nature or the expected order of things, as opposed to artificial or human made 2. established by ethical certainty or conviction like natural rights (from Latin natura meaning nature). (IP)

NATURAL CAPITAL: The stock of environmental assets and natural resources existing in the physical environment. Components of natural capital range from currently monitored factors such as mineral, forest or energy resources, through to other important factors such as clean water and atmosphere, biodiversity and ecological support systems. Natural capital requires a broader set of measures and indicators to monitor development and encourage the sustainable use of renewable resources. The metaphor of the "global bank account" reminds us that the generation of traditional economic assets usually (but not always) involves depletion from the parallel account. Both accounts must be managed sustainably. (MP)

NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING METHODS: any method of conception control that rely on coital technique rather than on the use medication or physical devices. During the menstrual cycle there are days of absolute infertility and days of potential fertility when conception ranges from very likely to very unlikely. A number of methods have been devised to help identify the time of maximum fertility so sexual intercourse can be avoided to decrease the likelihood of pregnancy. In order to identify the time of ovulation more precisely other optional extras have been developed; the most common of these are to chart basal body temperature (which rises 0.2-0.6‹C post-ovulation) or to monitor body changes such as increases in the volume and changes in the texture of cervical mucus (the Billing's method). Major concerns are unwanted pregnancies and fertilizations with aged gametes resulting in possible genetic defects and growth anomalies, and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. The same methods are also useful to pinpoint ovulation in order to increase the chance of a wanted conception or when artificial insemination or extraction of an oocyte for in vitro fertilization is planned. (IP)

NATURAL HERITAGE: Natural heritage sites are physical or biological features, formations or groups which have outstanding universal value from the point of view of aesthetics, science or conservation. They include landscapes, geological structures, ecological assemblies, rare habitats and habitats containing threatened species. Conservation of natural heritage may be achieved using networks of national parks or reserves and international guidelines such as the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. (See CULTURAL HERITAGE, HERITAGE, WORLD HERITAGE) (MP)

NATURAL LAW: Rules of conduct derived from nature and considered to be binding upon human society in the absence of, or in addition to, institutional law. (DM)

NATURAL SELECTION: The process of differential reproductive success by which genes in a population increase or decrease in frequency with the passage of generations, depending on their contribution to the survival of offspring in which they are carried; arguably the most important of the several mechanisms by which evolution takes place, discovered by Darwin and first described in 1858-59. (DM)

NATURAL STEP: Developed by Swedish scientist Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Det Naturaliga Steget ("The Natural Step") is a set of four sustainability principles stating that a) nature cannot withstand systematic build-up of dispersed matter, b) build-up of persistent chemical compounds or c) deterioration in its capacity for renewal, and that d) efficient use and just distribution of resources are therefore integral to the continuation of life. The Natural Step is a useful conceptual framework which may help organizations to implement sustainable development. Its range is however by no means exhaustive, and in the modern era of biotechnology perhaps a natural additional step would be to add that e) nature also cannot withstand systematic degradation of the informational integrity inherent in organisms and ecosystems. (See SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES) (MP)

NATUROPATHY: is a relatively recent term (19th/20th century) that is used to describe Western natural therapies that have as their basis a belief that the body has the power to heal itself and that disease is caused by the body trying to rid itself of impurities and restore a state of balance. Treatments are aimed at supporting the body’s own healing mechanisms rather than treating symptoms. Mental and spiritual state are also considered important factors in a persons ability to remaining well or to affect healing. The term naturopathy was first used by the German Benedict Lust when he brought this combination of natural therapies from Germany to the US in 1902 but was based on the ideas of a 19th century German and Austrian predecessors. Naturopaths use a wide range of treatment modalities (eg iridology, herbalism, homoeopathy, massage, diet and exercise) to both provide preventative health and treat disease. (See BUSH MEDICINE, HERB, HERBALISM) (JW).

NATURE: One kind of philosophy says that nature is intelligent, wise and "teleological" in that it strives to achieve purposes and goals. Nature may also be full of spirituality, of what are called malachim (angels) in the Bible, and kami (gods) in Shinto. Another kind of philosophy says that nature is just the blind and random movement of subatomic particles. Perhaps these philosophies can be reconciled if we conclude from Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty in physics, that subatomic particles are not really physical objects. The reason is that physical objects, like swords and rocks, have definite position, momentum and direction of movement at any given moment, but subatomic particles don't (at least according to Heisenberg's theory). When we think about it this way, subatomic particles seem more like spirits than like dumb matter. They seem a lot like the "spiritual sparks" which Israeli mysticism (kabala) says make up the world.

Nature is also referred to in natural approaches to health. A natural approach to health would mean to try to eat simple foods -- organic if possible, to live with a minimum of dependence on electricity and fossil fuels, to avoid polluting the environment, and to try to remain healthy, or to solve health problems oneself, avoiding physicians and medicines (even "alternative" ones) as much as possible. One would find time for martial arts, yoga, bicycling, hiking or sports. And if one has health problems, one would re-examine one's lifestyle, diet, environment and way of thinking. One would use natural methods like William Bates' method for improving eyesight without glasses. Or one might respond to back problems with walking and moderate exercise, along with throwing away the mattress and sleeping on wood with a thin pad, rather than surgery. And when ailment cannot be avoided, one might even accept ailments as opportunities to learn lessons for this life or for future incarnations. And one would turn to doctors and medicine of all kinds only as a last resort. Others will not find the time in their busy schedules for these pursuits, but they do seem to find the time for doctors. (FL)

NAZISM: German Nationalsozialismus , is also called Nazism or Naziism. Was the totalitarian movement led by Adolf Hitler as head of the Nazi Party in Germany.. National Socialism shared many elements with Italian fascism. However, Nazism was far more extreme both in its ideas and in its practice. In almost every respect it was an anti-intellectual and a theoretical movement, emphasizing the will of the charismatic dictator as the sole source of inspiration of a people and a nation, as well as a vision of annihilation of all enemies of the Aryan race and people as the one and only goal of Nazi policy. (DM)

NEANDERTHAL MAN: See Homo neanderthalensis.

NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS: Needle exchange is an important way of reducing the intravenous spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis among victims of heroin addiction. Unlike other injecting drug users such as insulin-dependent diabetics or amphetamine junkies, heroin users often have the feeling of urgency, loss of judgment and lethargy which makes them more susceptible to sharing needles. Government-funded needle exchange programs do not encourage or condone drug abuse but accept it as a reality of life and try to minimize harm by preventing the spread of disease and reducing the dangers inherent in needles littering public spaces. (See HEROIN INJECTING ROOMS, JUNKIE). (IP+MP)

NEGATIVE EUGENICS: Policies and programs intended to reduce the occurrence of genetically determined disease. (IP)


NEGLIGENCE: In law or ethics, failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in one's actions. (DM)

NEGOTIATION: Negotiation is communication and search for middle ground and common values between opposing sides of a dispute or conflict. Analysis of the conflict should take place before any proposals, to avoid an adversarial bargaining dialogue. In fundamental conflict, cultural values or human needs such as identity and security may not be subject to compromise. In this case to avoid stalemate the negotiators must analyze the respective interests, value systems and context to elucidate tactical compromise without compromising ultimately non-negotiable goals. If opposing sides cannot empathize or communicate with one another then a third party mediator or facilitator may be required for negotiation to take place. Other reasons for negotiation failure can be the belief systems of the facilitator, biased mediation, poor communication style, lack of teamwork, inflexibility and hidden motivations. (See COMPROMISE, CONFLICT, CONFLICT RESOLUTION, DISPUTE, FACILITATION, MEDIATION, PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY, THIRD PARTY) (MP)

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