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ETHICAL ISSUES ON HUMAN REMAINS drg. Claudia Surjadjaja, MPH, MSc, DrPH Seminar on Sites, Bodies, and Stories: Formation of Indonesian Cultural Heritage.

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Presentation on theme: "ETHICAL ISSUES ON HUMAN REMAINS drg. Claudia Surjadjaja, MPH, MSc, DrPH Seminar on Sites, Bodies, and Stories: Formation of Indonesian Cultural Heritage."— Presentation transcript:

1 ETHICAL ISSUES ON HUMAN REMAINS drg. Claudia Surjadjaja, MPH, MSc, DrPH Seminar on Sites, Bodies, and Stories: Formation of Indonesian Cultural Heritage Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology, 13 – 14 August 2009

2 2 Definition of human remains Bodies of people who lived thousands of years and bodies of those died within recent or living memory Bodies and part of bodies of once living people Osteological material (whole or part skeletons, individual bones or fragments of bone and teeth), ashes, soft tissue including organs and skin, blood, hair, embryos and slide preparations of human tissue Any of the above modified and/or physically bound- up with non-human materials to form an artefact from several materials

3 3 Ethics = Moral Philosophy How should we live? Why should we live like that? What is good/bad, evil? How should we decide that an act is ethical? Moral Theory: normative ethics arrives at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct We are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live (Socrates, in Plato’s Republic)

4 4 Non sequitur Postulate 1: Ethics is about the living Postulate 2: Human remains are the dead Thus ethics on human remains is non sequitur It is about distress to the LIVING and not the DEAD I certainly wouldn’t dig up my own mother. Well, I would if her graveyard was going to be destroyed. For scientific curiosity? Certainly wouldn’t do that. Oh, the body needed to be exhumed for use as evidence? OK, I would. What? It’s not only about excavation but about storage and display? Absolutely wouldn’t, even if the bones would be returned to the ground after use. Well, … unless they served some useful education purpose, e.g. better scientific analysis, new cure for cancer, etc, I would. Human remains are not neutral objects

5 5 Moral relativism There are no absolute, concrete rights and wrongs Intrinsic ethical judgment exists as abstract There is no universal moral truths Claims made related to social, cultural, historical, personal circumstances Moral values only applicable within certain cultural boundaries Example: Darius and the Callatians “Of all things law is king” (Herodotus, c.484 BC–c.425 BC)

6 6 The questions Human remains in cave at Londa Nanggala (Toraja Land, Sulawesi) Photo: Rhett A. Butler mongabay.com 1. Do ideas about ancestors play a role? 2. What role plays religion?

7 7 Human remains in the museum Categories:  identifiable human remains claimed by genealogical descendants or those of comparable status  human remains claimed by cultural descendants or concerned parties  human remains unclaimed by genealogical or cultural descendants “Respect the interests of originating communities with regard to elements of their cultural heritage present or represented in the museum. Involve originating communities, wherever practical, in decisions about how the museum stores, researches, presents or otherwise uses collections and information about them.” (Museums Association Code of Ethics 2002, 7.5)

8 8 1. Do ideas about ancestors play a role? Meaning and moral implications of cultural heritage: Disinterred and removal of indigenous human remains without permission of the descendants  movable cultural heritage Bodies of ancestors represent important spiritual heritage = essential element of cultural identity. Religious practice includes worship of ancestors. For indigenous peoples, both the dead and their burial grounds remain sacred even after thousands of years. Potential conflict between wider social importance as repositories of scientific information and their special significance to the indigenous community.

9 9 Code of Ethics on Human Remains Vermillion Accord on Human Remains (WAC,1989) 5. Agreement on the disposition of fossil, skeletal, mummified and other remains shall be reached by negotiation on the basis of mutual respect for the legitimate concerns of communities for the proper disposition of their ancestors, as well as the legitimate concerns of science and education. Obligations to Indigenous People (WAC First Code of Ethics,1990) 5. Members shall not interfere with and/or remove human remains of indigenous peoples without the express consent of those concerned. Tamaki Makau-rau Accord on the Display of Human Remains and Sacred Objects (WAC, 2006) … human remains include any organic remains and associated materials… Community may include, but is not limited to, ethnic, racial, religious, traditional or indigenous groups of people… good science is guided by ethical principles and that our work must involve consultation and collaboration with communities.

10 10 Codes on Repatriation & Reburial Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA 1990) Burial sites are sacred places that should not be disturbed; removing human remains from graves in any circumstances is an act of desecration; remains that have been removed from graves should be returned to descendants, who have the right to decide how ancestral remains and sacred artifacts should be treated. Non-Australian Indigenous Human Remains Policy (National Museum of Australia 2009) International Council of Museums Code of Ethics (2004) British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoacheology (BABAO) Code of Ethics for Archaeological Human Remains WAC code of ethics (as stated previously) Other museums code of ethics on human remains

11 11 2. What roles play religion?  Christianity's long history of public display of dead bodies (funerary rituals to religious relics)  Religious practice includes worship of ancestors in indigenous communities  Islam believes that wherever one dies should be buried there. A human body is sacred even after death. “Breaking the bone of a dead person is similar (in sin) to breaking the bone of a living person” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah, and Musnad Ahmad).

12 12 Future issues Re-study the Human Remains: What would be an Indonesian Code of Ethics? Repatriation: argument on this issue, whether this is morally just In Indonesia: what plays role? who plays role? what considered as Indonesian ethics?


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