For the past 50 years it has been essential to reflect on ethical behaviour because throughout the world we have the same objective: safeguard the human being in all situations where s/he faces a menace. Bioethics has developed most prominently in the fields of life sciences and health due to the rapid progress in biological research and advanced medical techniques. It is to be noted that all that can be attained scientifically is not necessarily desirable for the human being and has the potential to dehumanize him/her.
Ethical thinking is above all personal and each person pursues it in his/her profession according to his/her convictions and competence, but it is also a collective concern because people live together and are collectively responsible for preserving humanity. To this end, over the past decades, national, regional, and international committees for bioethics have developed progressively in human societies throughout the world. This may be called the “worldwide institutionalization of bioethics”.
On the national level, this institutionalization is accomplished in each country in different contexts. Tristan Engelhardt writes: “Bioethics in the United States is an element of a secular culture and the daughter of the philosophy of the enlightenment” (philosophie des lumières). Daniel Callahan states: “The first thing that persons involved in bioethics should do is to put religion aside”. Nevertheless, this does not mean that bioethics have not benefited from the principles of religious morality.
In Europe, Louis Seve summarizes the consensus attained by the Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique in France in these terms: “In the case of France [and certain other European countries] bioethics have found in existing laws favourable circumstances that previously existed: the existence of laws of secular character that have permitted different trends and opinions in bioethics to come together if not to agree”. Despite the pertinence of this statement, the majority of the European countries have become aware of the benefits of including representatives of their religious communities in their bioethics committees.Mapping Bioethics Regulations EN