Bioethical issues: Attitudes & rationales of Hong Kong tertiary students

Sing Lai CHAN, Chung Wai Kevin LUI, Chiao Liang Joseph TSANG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Bioethics is defined in the Encyclopedia of Bioethics as'The systematic study of human conduct in the area of the life sciences and health care, insofar as this conduct is examined in the light of moral values and principles" (Reich, 1978). The term bioethics is almost synonymous with biomedical ethics (Beauchamp & Childress, 1989). Brody & Engelhardt (1987) point out: 'because we are all either prospective patients or family members of prospective patients, the bioethical issues raised by contemporary health care are unavoidable.' Therefore, bioethical issues are inevitably confronted by everyone sooner or later. In the classrooms, bioethical issues arc likely to be increasingly in the spotlight in coming years (Simpson, 1996), and there are several justifiable reasons for placing bioethical issues in the curriculum (O'Brien, 1996). Many modern advances in science and technology have social implications. Notably among them are bioethical issues, such as human fertility controls, sex pre-determination, birth controls, abortion, AIDS & sexually transmitted diseases, homosexuality, euthanasia, genetic manipulations, animal experimentation, and environmental protection. Attitudes towards these bioethical issues not only affect the welfare of the present generations, but also have serious social repercussions extending to the future generations. The Hong Kong Government have urged schools to help students develop moral qualities so that they would become ethical and responsible citizens. Such an aim of education as to build up moral and ethical character has been strongly advocated since 2500 years ago by Confucius, and recently notably by Johann Friedrich Herbart (Gangel & Benson, 1983). Therefore it is of great importance to see whether our Hong Kong college students have conscientious judgment in these bioethical issues. The present study intends to investigate (i) the concepts of ethics and bioethics, (ii) the attitudes & rationales towards various bioethical issues and (iii) the related academic, religious, gender and age background, of the students studying in Hong Kong tertiary institutes. The research method is both quantitative and qualitative. For quantitative method, a questionnaire containing 20 ethical/bioethical statements would serve as the measuring instrument to access the student attitude towards science, theology and bioethics. The student attitude was measured in a Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The student background (gender, biology, religion, and major subject) would serve as independent variables. The returned questionnaires are processed statistically. For qualitative method, sample students of each university/institute are interviewed to clarify the rationale of their attitudes. The findings would advance knowledge in STS education by examining whether Hong Kong tertiary students understand ethics and bioethics and whether their bioethical attitudes are affected by their gender, age, religion, and major subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1996


Chan, S. L., Lui, C. W. K., & Tsang, C. L. J. (1996, November). Bioethical issues: Attitudes & rationales of Hong Kong tertiary students. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 13th Annual Conference: Restructuring Schools in Changing Societies, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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