Towards an Indigenous African Bioethics

Kevin Gary Behrens


In response to a perceived moral crisis in South Africa and Africa, I argue that there is a need to seek ways to restore the dignity of the people of Africa, whose values, beliefs and cultures were denigrated in the past. One way is for African bioethicists to begin to apply indigenous African philosophy, thought and values to ethical issues. This project is important (i) to restore dignity; (ii) because a bioethics grounded in indigenous ideas is more likely to be accepted by Africans; and (iii) because such ideas can enrich bioethical discourse. Highlighting the central importance of relationality, community and harmonious relationships in African thought, I conclude that we should adopt a revised version of principlism that incorporates these salient African moral conceptions.

Author's affiliations

Kevin Gary Behrens, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Full Text



African bioethics; African thought; African ethics; Principlism; African communitarianism; Harmonious relationships; Ubuntu; Communitarianism; South African moral crisis; Relational ethics; Ethics of care; Indigenous bioethics; Steve Biko

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2013;6(1):32-35. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.255

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-01-02
Date published: 2013-06-21

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