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  • Define the emerging discipline of global health ethics and its components
  • Expand the dialogue on global health ethics and its relationship to human rights; culture, including race, gender, ethnicity, and religion; poverty; and ill health
  • Discuss the concept of the “global being” or the “global person” in the milieu of equity, equality, justice, and benchmarks of fairness

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The world is changing, and one product of this change is the rapid emergence of a new discipline: global health ethics, the theory and practice of ethics in a holistic manner informed by multiple disciplines. These disciplines include public and population health and health systems; biotechnology and other scientific research; philosophy, including ethics; and other fields, such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, religion, and law. Practitioners of global ethics thus include not only health care workers and researchers but also practitioners of international biolaw, philosophers, bioethicists, moral and civic leaders, human rights advocates, environmentalists, experts in religion, social and biologic scientists, governmental officials, and nongovernmental organizations. Once considered independent of (and often competing with) one another, this diverse group has converged to achieve a common overarching goal: the well-being and thriving of the global being (person) within the worldwide community. This collective entity is embodied in each person and transcends differences between groups of people regardless of whether these differences are based on race, ethnicity, political affiliation, economics, culture, education, language, gender, age, or religion.

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Whereas the traditional concept of international health focused on bilateral interactions between well-to-do and poor countries, the concept of global health reaches beyond the rich-poor dichotomy and geographic borders to the forces that separate the powerful, free, privileged population from the population that is powerless, unfree, and marginalized. In its acceptance of human diversity, global health is an expression of support for human rights. And with human rights as a key value, global health ethics thus provides moral guidance for world health systems and governance. It is critical that a very comprehensive World Health Organization (WHO) definition of health be used in our discussion, that is, health as a state of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being that extends beyond the absence of physical disease or infirmity.

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For the purpose of our discussion, two definitions highlight different aspects of global health but to a certain extent are complementary: Velji and Bryant’s understanding and definition of global health “with a human face” emphasizes shared ideas, ideals, and values: global health is a new paradigmatic vision and action that rests on human ideas, ideals, and values of providing high quality of health for all globally. It has at its core equity, compassion, altruism, sharing, sensitivity, dignity, respect, philanthropy, and professionalism. It is bound by a global ethical code of conduct and governance that transcends borders, socioeconomic standing, ethnicity, caste, and religions. It enshrines the notion of the “global good.” Global health as a collective entity and enterprise is beyond the component disciplines, philosophies, and sciences but is ...

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