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UNESCO Bioethics Ireland: An overview

The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (held by Prof. Amnon Carmi) was established in order to coordinate and stimulate an International Network of Institutes for Medical Ethics Training, associating higher education institutes in both developed and developing countries, and to develop an up-to-date syllabus for medical ethics education which will satisfy the requirements of medical schools in the world. Working through an international network of Regional and National Units, the Irish Unit was established in 2016 to be headed by Dr Oliver Feeney (NUIG) under the European Division of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics.

In keeping with the UNESCO objectives, the Irish Unit will promote excellence in bioethics education and reflection on future bioethical directions, particularly with regard to ethical questions raised by new biotechnologies and its implications for society. It will encourage and coordinate interdisciplinary research in topical bioethical issues as well as cataloging the current state-of-the-art of research in the Irish context. Such bioethical issues are varied and growing, including issues related to abortion, new reproductive technologies (e.g. pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, in-vitro fertilisation, surrogacy), new directions in genetics and stem-cell research and end of life issues (e.g. assisted suicide and emerging research on life extension).

Although the primary focus will be the higher education sector, this will extend to education at all levels as well as journalists, policy-makers, politicians and the general public. Throughout, the central work will be orientated by the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights which UNESCO is committed to guide its application in a variety of socio-cultural-legal contexts. In its work, the Irish Unit will seek to reduce the distance between bioethical, medical and scientific experts and the wider society and will seek to foster greater understanding and clarity on these pressing questions of our time.

Update: General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) in effect (May 25th 2018). To join the new UNESCO Bioethics Ireland mailing list, please go to the contact us page.

Recent events

PSAI Annual Conference 2018 panel on ‘The Politics of Science and Biomedicine in Ireland’

Issues of bioethical concern in the Irish context was the subject of a panel on ‘The Politics of Science and Biomedicine in Ireland’ on the 12th October 2018 with presentations from Dr. Maureen O’Sullivan (School of Law, NUIG), Dr. Padraig Murphy (School of Communications, DCU) and Oliver Feeney (COBRA, NUIG). For more details, see here


Workshop on ethics & chronic illness, QUB, Belfast (6-7th September): for more details, see here


Recent and forthcoming publications

Oliver Feeney ‘Commentary: enlightened democracy in practice’ Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics Vol. 28, No. 1 (Forthcoming – January 2019).

Oliver Feeney, Julian Cockbain, Michael Morrisson, Lisa Diependaele, Kristof Van Assche & Sigrid Sterckx ‘Patenting foundational technologies: Lessons from CRISPR and other core biotechnologies’. The American Journal of Bioethics (Forthcoming – December 2018).

Ana Nordberg, Timo Minssen, Iñigo de Miguel Beriain, Kirmo Wartiovaara, Lucia Galvagni and Oliver Feeney (co-ordinator). ‘Response to Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ Genome editing and human reproduction: open call for evidence’  (Contribution acknowledged in the 2018 Nuffield Report on Genome editing and human reproduction: social and ethical issues)

Oliver Feeney, Pascal Borry, Heike Felzmann, Lucia Galvagni, Ari Haukkala, Salvör Nordal, Vojin Rakić, Brígida Riso, Sigrid Sterckx and Danya Vears (2018) Genuine participation in participant-centred research initiatives: the rhetoric and the potential reality.  (Special Issue of Journal of Community Genetics Vol. 9, No. 2 (April 2018).

Pascal Borry, Heidi Beate Bentzen, Isabelle Budin-Ljøsne, Martina C. Cornel, Heidi Carmen Howard, Leigh Jackson, Jane Kaye, Deborah Mascalzoni, Alvaro Mendes, Salvor Nordal, Borut Peterlin, Emmanuelle Rial-Sebbag, Brigida Riso, Mahsa Shabani, Heather Skirton, Sigrid Sterckx, Danya Vears, Matthias Wjst and Heike Felzmann (2018) ‘The challenges of the expanded availability of genomic information. An agenda-setting paper’ with  (Special Issue of Journal of Community Genetics, Vol. 9, No. 2 (April 2018).

Oliver Feeney. The ethics of gene editing’. RTÉ Brainstorm (November, 2017).





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Header image: DNA by Caroline Davis2010 (some rights reserved: source here)