J Med Ethics 36:226-229 doi:10.1136/jme.2009.034389
  • Global medical ethics

Some principles of Islamic ethics as found in Harrisian philosophy

  1. Sahin Aksoy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sahin Aksoy, Harran University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical History and Ethics, Dekanlik Binasi, Yenisehir Kampusu 63200 Sanliurfa, Turkey; sahinaksoy{at}
  • Received 11 November 2009
  • Revised 7 January 2010
  • Accepted 8 January 2010


John Harris is one of the prominent philosophers and bioethicists of our time. He has published tens of books and hundreds of papers throughout his professional life. This paper aims to take a ‘deep-look’ at Harris' works to argue that it is possible to find some principles of Islamic ethics in Harrisian philosophy, namely in his major works, as well as in his personal life.

This may be surprising, or thought of as a ‘big’ and ‘groundless’ claim, since John Harris has nothing to do with any religion in his intellectual works. The major features of Harrisian philosophy could be defined as consequentialism or utilitarianism with liberal overtones. Despite some significant and fundamental differences in the application of principles (ie, abortion, euthanasia), the similarities between the major principles in Harrisian philosophy and Islamic ethics are greater at some points than the similarities between Islamic ethics and some other religious ethics (ie, Christian, Judaism).

In this study I compare Harrisian teachings with major Islamic principles on ‘Responsibility’, ‘Side-effects and Double-effects’, ‘Equality’, ‘Vicious choice, guilt and innocence’, ‘Organ transplantation and property rights’ and ‘Advance directives’.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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