Logo of jmedethJournal of Medical EthicsVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Med Ethics. 2004 Feb; 30(1): 63–67.
PMCID: PMC1757111

Between universalism and relativism: a conceptual exploration of problems in formulating and applying international biomedical ethical guidelines


In this paper, the author attempts to explore some of the problems connected with the formulation and application of international biomedical ethical guidelines, with particular reference to Africa. Recent attempts at revising and updating some international medical ethical guidelines have been bedevilled by intractable controversies and wrangling regarding both the content and formulation. From the vantage position of relative familiarity with both African and Western contexts, and the privilege of having been involved in the revision and updating of one of the international ethical guidelines, the author reflects broadly on these issues and attempts prescribing an approach from both the theoretical and practical angles liable to mitigate, if not completely eliminate, some of the problems and difficulties.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (161K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Little MO. On knowing the 'why'. Particularism and moral theory. Hastings Cent Rep. 2001 Jul-Aug;31(4):32–40. [PubMed]
  • Macklin Ruth. A defense of fundamental principles and human rights: a reply to Robert Baker. Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 1998 Dec;8(4):403–422. [PubMed]
  • Benatar SR, Singer PA. A new look at international research ethics. BMJ. 2000 Sep 30;321(7264):824–826. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Medical Ethics are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


Save items

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...