GLEUBE (Globalising European Bioethics Education) is a European Union funded project aimed at increasing the international profile of European bioethics.
The project is collaboration between five European institutions, The University of Central Lancashire (Co-ordinating institution), Cardiff University, Dublin City University, University of Helsinki and the University of Oslo.
Developments in biology, medicine and the life sciences have huge ethical, legal and social implications, yet there is a real deficit of knowledge in the majority of the world’s education systems regarding the likely consequences of the ensuing biotechnological revolution. As we enter into the era of converging technologies these problems and risks associated with scientific advancement are heightened. Since the 1970’s, the “Georgetown Principles” of autonomy, non-malificence, beneficence and justice have been particularly influential and form the basis of a majority of bioethics training especially in medical education, many of which I’m sure you have all experienced.
As a result, these principles dominate standard ethical codes, legal documents and other governance frameworks that regulate medical practice and/or life science research. In the opinion of the GLEUBE research team, the dominance of this approach effectively reduces bioethics to “a checklist” rather than encouraging the analysis of problems and the testing of arguments. In our mind such principles provide the beginning but not the end of bioethics. Such approaches are obviously popular in a clinical setting, and it is interesting that despite the growing number of trained bioethicists the majority of day-to-day medical ethics decisions are made by clinicians without any formal bioethics training. The same individuals are often called upon to teach or train others.
Within the academic study of bioethics some scholars have identified the recent emergence of distinct “European” and “American” principles of bioethics. The so-called American values, are represented by the Georgetown Principles mention above. In contrast, European Principles might be seen to include autonomy, dignity, integrity and vulnerability. In addition, several ‘new’ principles have also proved popular in (predominantly European) bioethical debates, especially as relates to genomic technology; these include solidarity, benefit sharing and precaution. Most recently scholars have begun to identify principles that might reconcile or go beyond this apparent disparity of European and American principles. Against this backdrop, some have sought to identify similarities between the European and American principles, whilst others have questioned whether “bioethics” need be a “principles based” discipline at all.
In response to this emergence of distinct European approaches to bioethics, and the perception that current education, clinical and policy activity is dominated by American approaches, GLEUBE proposes to create a resource that showcases European bioethics scholastic and educative activity to a broad, international, audience.
One of the outcomes of the project is to establish an interactive website where professional bioethicists and bioethics bodies can upload articles and research resources as well as publishing information about recent news, events and courses that are occurring within the world of bioethics in Europe. This information is available to all users both academics and non-academics as well as providing a useful resource for those outside the European union who wish to become involved in bioethics and want to study bioethics in Europe.
The website will also contain Blogs where any user can post their opinions and questions pertaining to topics that have been suggested by proponent bioethicists who will also partake in the discussions.
Along side the website the project team will also be running workshops and summer schools in the area of bioethics providing new and potential bioethicists with vital skills and information which they will require to work within this field.