Ethical issues accompany research and practice in medicine and the life sciences. It is widely recognized today that these issues need to be dealt with in a proactive, professional way. This is particularly pertinent for countries such as Switzerland that are important sites of research as well as of highly advanced health care while at the same time fostering transparency and citizen involvement in a liberal democracy. Arguments for and against certain interventions need to be carefully weighed and justified in the light of available empirical data. This falls into the area of bioethics, an interdisciplinary academic discipline. Its expertise includes the identification of ethical dilemmas, the application of conceptual analytical techniques, the development of normative frameworks for problem solving as well as the collection and interpretation of empirical data that can inform bioethical debates.
This interdisciplinary field of scholarship requires specific training. Whereas bioethics has by now become a standard element in undergraduate and graduate education, advanced level training is still scarce, particularly in Continental Europe. The ProDoc “Bio&Medical Ethics” aims to close this gap by offering a high quality, targeted training module that addresses the needs of future bioethics experts. Important features of the ProDoc are 1) its closeness to research/clinical contexts, 2) its focus on empirical skills, 3) its focus on current, “real” (policy) issues.
The ProDoc will build on preparatory work carried out at the University of Zurich, which has already established a PhD program “Biomedical Ethics and Law”, with an international medical track containing a range of course offers in English. (www.bmel.uzh.ch/med) The new Bioethics Chair at the University of Basel will join forces in enhancing this program with a particular focus on ethical issues in life sciences. The accompanying research modules focus on current challenges in research ethics, more specifically in nanotechnology, synthetic biology, e-health and personal genomics. The training module is tailored to address these areas.
The ProDoc “Bio&Medical Ethics” will provide state of the art training, excellent supervision and international visibility. It aims to contribute to shaping a future generation of bioethicists who will be highly efficient and reliable in providing expert advice on the unavoidable and manifold ethical issues that arise with advances in medicine and the life sciences.