New Bioethics Centre at CUHK Will Engage Community on Issues at the Heart of the Biotechnology Revolution
Around the world, bioethics has become a way to explore the impact of scientific breakthroughs on communities and individuals. Literally the “ethics of life,” bioethics raises problems that are as old as human history, and as new as the latest journal article or development in genomic science.
Now the Chinese University of Hong Kong is raising the bar by establishing the CUHK Centre for Bioethics, to serve as a platform for academic as well as community discussion on these issues. To be launched on January 9 at the Centre’s first international conference, it will serve as a gateway for research collaboration and curriculum development, as well as research and publication by CUHK faculty.
A community dimension will be developed through the new centre’s website, bioethics programs in secondary schools as well as town hall meetings and exhibitions that delve into basic questions about the beginning and end of life as well as new technologies that challenge communities to think more deeply about their values.
“We think of bioethics in terms of the impact of medicine and biomedical science on human wellbeing,” said Professor Tai-fai Fok, Pro-Vice Chancellor of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. “It can help us understand cultural differences in the ways we address terminal illness or define when human life begins. Bioethics broadly calls on society to respect the individuals and families who are exposed to difficult medical choices. It has helped to build informed consent into a powerful tool to affect patients’ rights.”
“But the issues being addressed by bioethics today go well beyond the confines of the medical profession. These issues require society as a whole to ask questions about the relationship between human health and the environment, and whether the accessibility of the new technologies of human enhancement and genetic diagnosis should be subjected to ethical tests, and if so, what those tests might be.”
Since November 2013, Professor Fok has been working with Professor Francis Chan, dean of the CUHK Faculty of Medicine, and other senior scholars to develop an institution that can be both a centre of academic excellence and a resource for the community. As chairman of the advisory board of the new centre, Professor Fok will direct a small staff, including Interim Director Hon-Lam Li and Director of Research Huso Yi. Both Professor Li, a philosopher, and Professor Yi, a public health specialist, are currently on the faculty of CUHK and are members of the working group that has developed the concept for the centre under Professor Fok.
Said Fok: “We are only at the beginning of this journey but we are excited about creating something new that will bridge the traditional divide between town and gown. Our first international conference will give us an opportunity to demonstrate the wealth of local scholarship in bioethics as well as welcome some of the world’s leading experts on ageing, public health systems in global cities, and the impact of genomic science. In the next phase, we will be developing a new curriculum on bioethics not only for the medical school but as part of general education, and work through our website and other means to develop a meaningful contribution to the Hong Kong community on bioethics.”
The launch conference, entitled “Building Bioethics Capacity in Hong Kong: Ethical Dimensions of Policy for Ageing and Genetics,” will be held from January 9-10, 2015 at the Conference Hall, 2/F, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar. Interested members of the public are welcome and admission is free.
A related event, co-organized by CUHK and the Asia Society, features a talk by Dr. Robert Klitzman, “Are We Our Genes: Mixing Species in Science and Art,” at 6:30-8:30 pm on January 8, 2015. The first 50 tickets will be free by registering with the CUHK Centre for Bioethics via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel. 3943 9876.
Media inquiries are welcome and the launch conference is open to the press, although the organizers would appreciate advance notification.