UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights. Roma, Italy

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Fr. Joseph Tham Named New Dean of Faculty of Bioethics

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The Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum appointed UNESCO Chair Fellow Father Joseph Tham, LC the new Dean of the School of Bioethics on 10 September 2014.

Tham was in Hong Kong and immigrated to Toronto at the age of 15 years.  He devoted his early training to the field of life and health, eventually graduating in Medicine at the University of Toronto, before working as a physician at Etobicoke Genenal Hospital and St. Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto.

After his priestly ordination in 2004, he has devoted his energies to the publication and dissemination of bioethical research. In 2007, Tham presented his doctoral thesis on “The Secularization of Bioethics,” a work which treats the historical development of secularization and its impact on the relationship between theology, religion and bioethics. He currently continues to explore the issue of secularism, moral relativism, pluralism and different models of bioethics, as well as the response from the Catholic moral tradition founded on natural law and personalism. “I started to explore the theological dimension missing in these matters, where I see an incapacity of secular bioethics to address the deeper questions of life, suffering and death, illness and healing, and the right use of technology. Theological perspectives of creation, idolatry, domination, suffering, aging, sin, and salvation can provide the necessary bioethical reflection on the human condition (anthropology), his ultimate end (eschatology), and the ability to hope and love (spirituality, virtue).”

Moreover, these interests have led Father Joseph to explore the themes of multiculturalism and other religions in the field of bioethics, in an increasingly globalized world. “My Chinese roots and my Christian commitment have allowed me to delve into this fascinating world of thoughts and cultures.”



Newsflash: Chair Director to Address Association of Latino Leaders

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New Book: Religious Perspectives on Human Vulnerability in Bioethics

9789401787352Springer press has published a new book: Religious Perspectives on Human Vulnerability in Bioethics.  Editors: Joseph Tham, Alberto Garcia, Gonzalo Miranda.  This is second in the series of Global Bioethics.  The new volume is a product of the Second International Workshop held in Rome on Human Vulnerability.



Chair Fellow Speaks on Person-Centered Health Care at Spanish University

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UNESCO Chair Fellow Fr. Joseph Tham gave delievered two bioethical talks during his visit to the Universidad Franciso de Vitoria in Madrid Spain July 3-4. Tham addressed the European Society for Person Centered Healthcare in his conference on “Person-centered Healthcare according to the Catholic Tradition.” Tham’s own abstract of the talk is included below.

Tham also commemorated the legacy of the late Dr. Edmund Pellegrino in an address to the Institute of Bioethics entitled “Testimony on Dr. Pellegrino, virtuous man and educator who lived what he preached.” Tham’s original Spanish abstract of the talk can be found below, followed by an English translation.


UNESCO Chair Fellows Participate in the 4th European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health in Malta

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Prof. Fr. Joseph Tham, LC and Prof. Fr. Alberto Carrara, LC, Fellows of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights participated in the ECRSH14, the 4th European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health that took place in the Mater Dei’s Hospital in Malta Island From the 22nd to the 24th of May 2014.

The conference, organized by Prof. Dr. Donia Baldacchino (Educating Health Care Professionals on Spiritual Care, University of Malta), focused on the integration of religion and spirituality into clinical practice. The keynote speakers approached the topic from their specific professional background. The Malta Lecture was held by Prof. Harold G. Koenig, an expert in this field from Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.

The ECRSH14 was sponsored by the Research Institute for Spirituality and Health, Langenthal/Switzerland, in collaboration with Malta University, and was titled: Integrating Religion/Spirituality into Clinical Practice: Focus on Health Care Professionals.

Prof. Fr. Joseph Tham, LC and Prof. Fr. Alberto Carrara, LC also met Malta’s President during the opening congress event on the 22nd of May in the Presidential House (see image below).

The speakers came from different countries around the world: Prof. Dr. med. Arndt Buessing (Universität Witten/Herdecke, Germany), Rev. Prof. Christopher Cook, MD PhD (Dep. of Theology and Religion, Durham University, UK), Prof. Farr A. Curlin, MD (Program on Medicine and Religion, The University of Chicago, IL, USA), Prof. George Fitchett DMin, PhD (Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Il, USA), Rev. Dr. Ewan Kelly (NHS Education for Scotland, National Health Service, Edinburgh, UK), Dr. Piotr Krakowiak (Nicolaus Copernicus University Torun, Poland), Prof. Dr. Christina Puchalski (George-Washington-University Washington, DC, USA), Rev. Prof. John Swinton (King’s College University of Aberdeen, UK), and Dr. Jackie Watts (The Open University, London, UK).

You can find more information here. http://www.ecrsh.eu/

You can download the congress’ program here. http://www.ecrsh.eu/mm/ECRSH14-First-Announcement-Sep-6.pdf

Bioethics Art Exhibition at the University of Texas

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by Yvone Denbina

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Section of Integrated Ethics, headed by Dr. Colleen Gallagher, exhibited the Bioethics Art Competition 2011 and 2013 winners on August 29, 2014. The exhibit was on display all day and was also the focus of a reception within the Faculty Café hosted and organized by Dr. Warren Holleman. Approximately 200 staff members, doctors, invited guests and bioethicists viewed the exhibit’s 31 pieces.  A photo gallery of the event is available here.

The winners, 11 in 2011 and 15 in 2013 ranged in age from 13 to 79 and represented 29 countries. Additionally, 5 board members created and donated their work for the benefit of the competition. In 2011, the theme of the competition was:  “Be inspired to contemplate human life with wonder and compassion.”  In 2013, the theme was “Create an image, with respect for all cultures and religions that speaks to the impact of life sciences for present and future generations.  Illustrate Love, Compassion and Care.” The concept of inviting artists to express their ideas visually and through a written statement furthers the mission of fostering convergence of science and art, with respect and care for all human beings. In these two competitions, Bioethics Art Competition has awarded $26,400 in awards to artists. The Bioethics Art Competition will continue to create new events and initiatives that will inspire dialogue of global ethics.

The new challenge in 2015 is “Express the Gift of Healing: Body, Mind and Spirit”. Bioethics Art Competition sends an appeal to artists, students, creative individuals of every nation to lend their interpretation, images and words to spread the focus of concern, compassion and love for all beings. Check the website, www.bioethicsart.org for more details and the images of previous winners.

M.D. Anderson is the latest venue for the exhibition of winners.  Other sites have been The United Nations Gallery in New York, New York; Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, Rome, Italy; St. Thomas University, Houston, TX; Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church, The Woodlands, TX; Old Town Spring Museum, Spring,TX; Hong Kong Baptist University and Hong Kong University, Hong Kong.

Additional exhibition sites, competition dates, categories and awards will be posted on the website, www.bioethicsart.org.


Mexico Workshop updates

playa_carmenThe Fourth International Bioethics, Multiculturalism and Religion Workshop and Conference On Social Responsibility in Bioethics to be held in at Anahuac University, Mexico City, November 10-12, 2014 is well under way.  There will be a public conference by Prof. Dafna Feinholz who is Team Leader, Sector for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France. The workshop is well represented by experts of many different religions from different parts of the world.  Being in Mexico, the Mesoamerican perceptive will be represented for the first time. See Speakers list and Schedule.

For practical details on participation, see Letter to participants

A special Side trip to Playa del Carmen has been organized for those who want to relax after these busy days of meeting.


A Picture meant for history books, not headlines

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by Michael Gannon

Families fleeing their homes, leaving their city behind forever, carrying on their backs the little they can cling to, with innocent little faces trailing them with tears dripping onto the desert sand beneath them…

Imagine that picture…spare a moment to try and sense the pain, the loss, and the trauma in need of healing that will lie ahead. You have probably seen the like in a history book, where you were taught about a past injustice and moved by the suffering faces you saw. You might have wondered how anything like that could happen, and you might have felt assured that it couldn’t happen again in our modern and progressive times. But the picture you are imagining now describes a reality that is current, happening today, and the pain is being felt by our brothers and sisters in their lives, in their hearts, and in their families.

The situation of persecuted religious groups in parts of the world is real, and has intensified. People are being pressured to renounce their religion against their true desire, or to face heavy tax penalties and societal discrimination that would incessantly burden if not cripple their families. If they refuse to submit to either, they are threatened with death. Most have chosen another option, that of fleeing their hometowns where they are no longer welcome. This reality is dramatic, extreme, tragic, and begging for compassion. The children are the most heart-wrenching victims of these crimes.



Progress Report 2012-2014

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Executive Summary   017_2__Light_In_the_Square

Some of the chief outcomes of our commitment to promote  an integrated system of research, training, information, and documentation on bioethics and human rights are the following:

  • Improvement of communication regarding the project of the UNESCO chair, its mission, and its activities within the organization and to the public (particularly through our internet site: www.unescobiochair.org and periodical newsletters)
  • Design, launching, and consolidation of some academic programs and activities in collaboration with our UNITWIN partners in Mexico and Angola
  • Strengthening of the Neurobioethics Research Group (through ongoing monthly meetings)
  • Continuation of a forum of diverse bioethics thought leaders through the organization of our 3rd International Workshop on Bioethics, Multiculturalism and Religion in Hong Kong (Dec 2013), which offered a framework to guide the application of bioethical principles with regards to various religious traditions. Preparation has begun for the 4th Workshop on the Principles of Social Responsibility and Health in collaboration with Anahuac University in Mexico City (Nov 2014).
  • Innovative involvement of artistic community in bioethics issues through the organization of our 2nd International Bioethics Art Competition focusing on cultural diversity and the protection of future generations (May 2013) and preparation of the 3rd edition of the same competition.
  • Increased interest and involvement of new scholars and students from our host institutions (UER-APRA).  Some have volunteered as fellows and interns, making possible the consolidation and development of our activities.

Read the full report here.


UNESCO Chair Fellow Participates in the 7th Annual Pisa Days of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology

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Prof. Fr. Alberto Carrara, LC, Fellow of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights and Coordinator of the Italian Research Group in Neurobioethics (GdN) participated in the 7th Annual Meeting – Pisa Days of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology titled: Psychiatry: time for change, that took place in the Galilei Hotel in Pisa (Italy) on June 16-18, 2014.

Prof. Carrara gave a plenary lecture dealing with the contemporary application of neuroscience in psychiatric practice, with a particular focus on psychiatric patients as vulnerable members of society. The lecture was titled: Neuroethics in Psychiatry, and took place on June 18, 2014, at the end of the meeting.

Carrara noted that psychiatry has greatly changed with the advances in research. The remarkable increase in neuroscientific research in recent decades has corroborated the notion that “mind” and “brain” largely correspond and that psychiatric symptoms also result from brain disturbances. Neuroscientific research has opened new horizons to psychiatric interventions, thanks to the development of treatments such as psychotropic drugs.  Today we can affirm that we know much about the pathophysiology of mental disorders, we can control most psychiatric disorders and symptoms and, in an increasing number of cases, we can even restore normal equilibrium. Likewise, psychological practice has become more scientifically-oriented with some techniques showing reliable effectiveness, to the point that the combination of both drugs and focused psychological treatment can be decisive in some patients.


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