Many issues that remain concerns in modern medical practice were recognized and addressed by Hindu religious texts, codes of conduct, and Sanskrit treatises of Ayurveda. The medical texts discussed responsibilities of the physician to society, patients, and colleagues in terms that recognized the professional nature of these interactions, distinctive social values, and political forces. Medical theory, which was primarily humoral, incorporated a moral basis for explaining health and illness of individuals. Some questions that have become major concerns for medical ethics in the West, such as the status of rational suicide, were considered in the context of Hindu traditions other than medicine.

Recent developments in biotechnology have placed controversial questions about bioethics and cultural values near the top of an agenda for equitable social policy in South Asia. The ongoing debate that follows from the impact of new technologies should be informed by an appreciation of the cultural and historical contexts in which these questions emerge.


SEE ALSO: Buddhism, Bioethics in; Confucianism, Bioethics in; Daoism, Bioethics in; Death, Eastern Thought; Ethics, Religion and Morality; Eugenics and Religious Law: Hinduism and Buddhism; Healing; Health and Disease; Jainism, Bioethics in; Sikhism, Bioethics in

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