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Volume 8 / Issue 2
[gris]April 2013[/gris]
Bioethics before nazism.
Fritz Jahr : writings 1926-1933

[gris]ISSN 1553-5053[/gris]


When bioethics goes marching in

Prologue to Spanish translation of a selection of Fritz Jahr’s articles
Amir Mazur
Iva Rincic

It is difficult to find a match to the recent dynamic sequence of discoveries related to the history of bioethics. Since the early 1970s, bioethics was known as a concept developed by the Wisconsin oncobiochemist Van Rensselaer Potter. Potter’s bioethics was intended to re-introduce moral values into the re-thinking of human progress. The Georgetown Kennedy Institute of Ethics took over the term from Potter, but oriented the new discipline more toward the dilemmas of modern medicine, thus narrowing down the original Potter’s idea. Then, in 1997, Rolf Löther from Berlin reported about the use of the term Bio-Ethik as early as 1927, in a paper by the humble German theologian and teacher Fritz Jahr (1895-1953). The voice on Jahr’s work spread all over the world, primarily thanks to Eve-Marie Engels and Hans-Martin Sass.

To Latin America, Potter’s ideas were introduced almost immediately, thanks to José Alberto Mainetti. The news about the discovery of Fritz Jahr also penetrated the continent very quickly : this time, the credit has remained with José Roberto Goldim (Porto Alegre), Leo Pessini (São Paulo), Fernando Lolas Stepke (Santiago de Chile), and others. The pioneer work of Juan Jorge Michel Fariña and Natacha Salomé Lima (Buenos Aires), who started to publish on Jahr as early as 2009 and participated in the first international conference on Fritz Jahr (held in Rijeka/Opatija, Croatia, March 2011), has been particularly important, promoting the network of scientists devoted to the re-shaping of bioethics into a broader discipline, closer to Potter’s initiative and to the needs of humanity.

Today, we know that Jahr published at least 22 short papers (1924-1948) and that he first elaborated his concept of bioethics in December 1926. (The more famous January 1927 paper, published in Kosmos, however, was certainly more broadly read and therefore more influential.) Within the last two years, three conferences were devoted to the work of F. Jahr (in Croatia, Brazil, and Germany), and six brochures and three books were published on his life and work (the fourth will appear in Autumn 2013). Various selections of Jahr’s papers were re-published in German, English, Portuguese, and Croatian.

Therefore, the importance of translating Jahr’s writings into Spanish is hard to be overestimated : not only it proves that Argentina be once again ahead of recent trends in science, but it might provide a tool for Latin-American bioethics in general, to find its new way of development, culturally closer to the European, but still original, since tinged with the marvellous variety of the heritage of the South-American continent.




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