Announcement: Canadian UNESCO-Affiliated Bioethics Unit/Network to the International UNESCO Chair in Bioethics

UNESCO Chair in Bioethics

Canadian UNESCO-Affiliated Bioethics Unit to the International UNESCO Chair in Bioethics


August 22, 2012

In 2001 there was establishment of a UNESCO Chair designation in medical bioethics resulting from published research under Professor Carmi from 1996 and 2001. This research centered on the specific field of the provision and outcomes of medical bioethics education. Secondary to this research, a UNESCO International Chair position was created for a UNESCO Chair in Medical Bioethics. An international network was created from interested and supporting Universities across the world, with each of the 29 signatory countries being designated a UNESCO Medical Education Bioethics designated University, with a corresponding National Network and Chief/Lead for their country. In 2009, Canada became a signatory to this initiative. Western University enjoys collaboration with the other Bioethics Universities including Harvard in the United States, Tokyo Medical University in Japan and the University of Haifa in Israel to name a few.

These networks have been tasked with determining the status of medical education deliverables in bioethics across the country, including quality, placement, sustainability and robustness within the medical curriculum.

The Canadian Network at August 22, 2012 has been awarded by the UNESCO Chair to the supervision of Professor Joel Lamoure, a critical care pharmacist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. Joel  Lamoure also serves as a scientist with Lawson Health Research Institute and surveyor with Accreditation Canada. Joel was licensed as a pharmacist in 1991 and completed his Doctorate in Divinity in 2011.

A revised cross-Canadian panel and committee will be convened to address and go the next level of questions that have been posed by the UNESCO Bioethics Chair to support the Charter..

The aim of the Network is to ensure a robust and evidence based approach to the provision of medical bioethics within the medical curriculum. In a sharing, international network format we aim to determine the level of current education, identify the needs for bioethics education and train the educators through adult based learning educational strategies.

UNESCO has noted the emergence of the need for bioethics at grass roots, educational level that is continuous, consistent and mirrored through education, practice and mentoring. Their statements surrounding the current challenges are as follows*:

“There is an emerging need for introduction of teaching medical ethics as a consequence of several social and scientific processes:    

•  Health-care consumers emphasize nowadays not only the need for health but the need for quality of life. Patients expect professionalism, effectiveness and quality, along with empathy, reliability and devotion.
    • Health-care providers are detached from traditional concepts of idealistic medicine, adopting a contractual, consumer paradigm.
    • Medical technology has created new dilemmas (e.g. procreation, euthanasia, intensive care, medical genetics, bio-technology), while at the same time causing previous ethical resolutions to become obsolete (e.g. definition of death, family composition).
    • Specialization and sub-specialization in medicine have encouraged technicality at the expense of patient-physician relationship and communication skills, thus creating a growing gap between physicians and their patients, and between medicine and society at large.
    • Growing social concern, suspicion and demand for closer inspection on medical activities is filling this gap. The demand is materialized in the form of ample litigation, increased health-related legislation and formulation of international declarations, conventions, charters etc., creating new ethical and legal frameworks and new obligations for the practicing physician.
    • Resource allocation in face of growing monetary constraints creates a substantial effect on the everyday practice of medicine.
    • The need to adhere to ethical norms in scientific research and experimentation (human cloning, pharmacology etc.) remains a constant challenge”

*UNESCO 2012

We would like to thank the previous Canadian Network members for their immense efforts to date since 2009 to bring Canada to the table in Bioethics as it relates to education and setting the stage for the next exciting stage of development. Being that education based in CANMEDS is a life long role, we look forward to creating new Canadian linkages to move the medical education bioethics across the scope, specialties and lifespan of clinicians.