Progress Report 2012-2014

Progress Report 2012-2014

Executive Summary

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: 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 Discusses Implications of SARS Treatment in Hong Kong

UNESCO Chair Fellow Discusses Implications of SARS Treatment in Hong Kong

UNESCO Chair Fellow Fr. Joseph Tham, LC participated in a conference on  “SARS epidemic: ethical reflection and prospects” in Hong Kong on September 7, 2013. The 2003 global epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome was particularly devastating in Hong Kong.  About 1800 people were infected, 300 of whom died, including 8 medical personnel.  The Bioethics Resource Centre of the Catholic Diocesan Committee for Bioethics of Hong Kong organized the education event with the sponsorship of different hospitals, nursing and doctor guilds.
Fr. Tham spoke on the challenges medical personnel face in risking their own lives to save the lives of those suffering disease.   He organized his presentation according to four major paradigms of the doctor-patient relationship used to understand healthcare delivery to SARS victims.
 Military– Doctors and nurses are considered front-line soldiers defending the citizens from the plight of the SARS disease.  They see themselves as specially trained to win this battle against the enemy, and sometimes have to sacrifice themselves in this struggle.
Profession– This model emphasizes the duty of physicians and nurses to serve the public. In emergency situations, similar to police or firefighters, abandonment would be considered unacceptable and violate the code of professional conduct.
Legal / Business– Here, the relationship becomes one of provider and client, bound by a reestablished contract, with tendency towards utilitarian calculation and possible lawsuits. In this scenario, healthcare workers may opt not to put themselves and their families at risk.
Vocation / Mission–  Doctors and nurses receive a special calling and their duty is not merely professional but also something more. According to Edmund Pellegrino, this would constitute a covenant relationship in which virtues are required. The virtues of justice, prudence, fidelity to trust and self-effacement would be particularly important.
Tham´s talk concluded by addressing the risk-benefit assessment involved when healthcare professionals are asked to treat the SARS victims according to the fourth paradigm. He emphasized the primary importance of prudence in this model and explained the components of the virtue essential for arriving at correct decisions.
Tham will also be teaching in a bioethics diploma course at the Caritas Institute of Higher Education during his visit.
“Bioethics at the Crossroads of Faith, Reason and Science” 2013 International Summer Course Offered in Rome

“Bioethics at the Crossroads of Faith, Reason and Science” 2013 International Summer Course Offered in Rome

 The UNESCO Chair of Bioethics and Human Rights was proud to join the Regina Apostolorum School of Bioethics in presenting the 2013 international summer course of bioethics from July 1-14 in Rome, Italy.  This year´s annual event was named “Bioethics at the Crossroads of Faith, Reason and Science.”

Doctors, professors and lawyers travelled from Italy, the United States, Mexico, Nigeria and other countries to share their experience applying bioethical principles in their given profession.  Conferences were offered in English, Spanish and Italian, with simultaneous translation to accommodate the diversity of the group.  Group activities and common meals fostered lively discussion of the conference material between scheduled presentations.

Diversity of language, culture and religion marked enriched the group united by a common interest in bioethics.  For instance, representatives of the Judaic and Islamic traditions explained how their respective religious traditions confront modern bioethical challenges.  Moreover, representatives of the Asia and Africa shared the contributions of their continent to the global bioethical concerns that extend well beyond Europe.

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, offered a keynote address that transmitted effectively his zeal for the progress of sound bioethical reflection.  The presentations that followed during the first week examined the distinction between the disciplines of empirical science, philosophy and theology and the pressing need to achieve a bioethics vision that synthesizes the insights of each mode of knowledge.

The second week began with the presence of Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy of Life and renowned as one of the first major figures of modern bioethical thought.  The presentations of the week examined how the interdisciplinary vision of bioethics developed in the first week could address specific contemporary bioethical discussions, such as organ transplants and “transhumanism.”

Global Bioethics in a Culturally Diverse World

Global Bioethics in a Culturally Diverse World

Is it possible to reconcile cultural and religious diversity and Global Bioethics? Are the competing claims of various wisdom traditions so diverse as to render meaningful dialogue on key bioethics questions meaningless?

On Thursday August 29, Prof. Alberto Garcìa JD shared his experience of finding ethical convergence as a head of the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics and Human Rights with the students at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.  He insisted that it was possible to acknowledge the uniqueness of the Catholic approach to bioethics without neglecting the universal vocation of bioethics to help all men.

He also noted that the life sciences and medicine quickly become dehumanized when bioethical reflection is excluded.  The Church shows great willingness to collaborate with others in the common cause of recognize, promotion and protecting human rights through her involvement in international organizations like the United Nation.

Garcìa noted that a truly healthy global bioethics is not one in which faith is excluded as a threat to dialogue.  Rather, a robust bioethics should offer a synthesis of faith and reason capable of addressing the complex issues of our time in union with all men of good will.