CUHK to Host First Annual Bioethics Summer Workshop to “Train the Trainers”
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) is beginning an ambitious effort to bring bioethics into its core medical curriculum with a two-day workshop aimed at faculty training, from July 15 to 16.
While bioethics has become a familiar concept in many parts of the world – it is even taught in high schools in the United States – it has been slower to gain a foothold in Asia. CUHK’s new Centre for Bioethics, which is organizing the workshop, will be the first research institute on bioethics in Hong Kong housed in a medical school.
The new centre aims to provide a hub for scholars and students from a variety of disciplines who are interested in bioethics, in addition to clinicians. By doing so, CUHK hopes not only to train better doctors and healthcare workers, but also to make better global citizens of its students and to bring a Hong Kong and Asian focus to international collaboration on bioethics.
What is “Bioethics?”
For those who are new to the topic, bioethics, medical ethics, and biomedical ethics are closely related in terms of history and practice. Bioethics has grown out of the rapid development of biotechnology over the past two decades, as well as a growing recognition that health systems, medical practice, and the environment exist in an intimate relationship. Bioethics engages a broader set of issues than medical ethics and considers a wider context than the classical, clinical environment. It builds on the strong legacy of values in the medical profession that exists in many cultures. Today, the subjects of bioethics range from classic scenarios of medical practice to possibilities approaching science fiction.
When biotechnology enters the picture, the ethical choices multiply along with the clinical alternatives. Is it right for parents to engineer desired characteristics in their children through non-invasive prenatal genetic testing (NIPT)? How does the definition of parenthood change when a combination of in vitro fertilization and surrogacy produce children with both biological and non-biological parents? Stem cell research, cloning, and genetic sequencing in clinical diagnosis and treatment raise many more such issues.
CUHK’s First Summer Workshop to Focus on “Training the Trainers”
These are the kinds of questions that will be raised at the first of an annual series of bioethics workshops organized by CUHK’s soon to be launched Centre for Bioethics.
The organizers view it as a first step in building capacity for bioethics research and education at CUHK, even though the sponsoring Centre for Bioethics is still under development.
“We believe it is necessary to build educational software even before putting in place hardware in terms of cement and infrastructure,” said Professor Fok Tai-fai, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK and interim director of the CUHK Centre for Bioethics, which will be formally launched in January 2015. “The first step is to establish a baseline of knowledge across the faculty, especially those who will be involved in training clinicians,” Professor Fok added. “At CUHK, we wish to give priority to the fundamentals – so that by the time the Centre for Bioethics is up and running, we will have a strong coterie within the university that is already networking across disciplinary lines to bring our students the best cases, mentoring, and creative talent needed to understand the ethics of complex clinical situations.”
“We could start with an elegant façade and big name bioethicists, or we could start with our students,” said Professor Fok. “We choose the latter.”
Ultimately, CUHK’s new Centre for Bioethics will have its own office and staff. Driving it within CUHK have been some of the most senior faculty in the university. Among the most important tasks of the new centre will be to develop a new core curriculum in bioethics, to cover all 500 health-sciences undergraduates beginning in 2015, and potentially all 15,000 undergraduates.
A Focus on NIPT, Ageing Policy, and Web-based Training
Co-organized with the highly regarded Hastings Center, the first of the CUHK bioethics summer workshops will include sessions on non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), an area in which CUHK scientists have achieved important breakthroughs; the problems of caring for a rapidly ageing society; and Singapore’s experience with creating an innovative web-based teaching tool for bioethics.
Alastair V. Campbell, director of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE) at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, will be a keynote speaker at the workshop, discussing the role and potential of the CUHK Centre for Bioethics.
Other international bioethicists who will speak at the workshop include Josephine Johnston, director of research at the Hastings Center; Nancy Berlinger and Michael Gusmano, both research scholars at the Hastings Center; Michael Dunn, lecturer at the Ethox Centre in the Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford; and Jacqueline Chin, assistant professor at CBmE.
Hong Kong-based keynote speakers will include Professor Dennis Y.M. Lo, director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences at CUHK and Professor Jean Woo, director of the S.H. Ho Centre for Gerontology and Geriatrics, CUHK.