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Keywords:

  • sub-Saharan Africa;
  • clinical trials;
  • health priorities;
  • informed consent;
  • special obligations;
  • animal experimentation

ABSTRACT

The field of bioethics is replete with applications of moral theories such as utilitarianism and Kantianism. For a given dilemma, even if it is not clear how one of these western philosophical principles of right (and wrong) action would resolve it, one can identify many of the considerations that each would conclude is relevant. The field is, in contrast, largely unaware of an African account of what all right (and wrong) actions have in common and of the sorts of factors that for it are germane to developing a sound response to a given bioethical problem. My aim is to help rectify this deficiency by first spelling out a moral theory grounded in the mores of many sub-Saharan peoples, and then applying it to some major bioethical issues, namely, the point of medical treatment, free and informed consent, standards of care and animal experimentation. For each of these four issues, I compare and contrast the implications of the African moral theory with utilitarianism and Kantianism, my overall purposes being to highlight respects in which the African moral theory is distinct and to demonstrate that the field should take it at least as seriously as it does the Western theories.