The Chair for Biomedical Ethics was established at the University of Zurich in 2005 in response to the growing need for education, research and consultancy in the area of medical ethics and bioethics. The Institute of Biomedical Ethics (IBME) was founded in 2007. It belongs to the Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich and forms part of the Centre for Ethics, a well-established interdepartmental institution that plays a prominent role in the Swiss discourse on ethical issues. In 2009 the IBME was designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre. In 2014 the Chair for History of Medicine was integrated into the Institute, which is now named Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine. Through its history department, the IBME is represented in the Center for the History of Knowledge, an inter-university collaboration between UZH and ETHZ.
The IBME is actively engaged in the following areas:
- Research ethics
- Clinical ethics
- Public health ethics, health policy and health law
- Ethical aspects of bio- and infotechnological developments
- Theoretical foundations of biomedical ethics
- History of Medicine
Research activities of the Institute are sponsored by organizations such as the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and the European Commission.
The main teaching activities of IBME consist of core courses and electives for medical and dental students. Through the Chair of History of Medicine, the IBME teaches a full curriculum at the UZH History Seminar, partly with cross-listing agreements in gender studies and ethnology. At the same time, IBME staff is involved in postgraduate education, including the Advanced Studies in Applied Ethics. In addition, the IBME offers the PhD program “Biomedical Ethics and Law” (medical track), with tailored courses and seminars for its students.
The Institute is also involved in ethics consultancy, both in the clinical and academic field as well as in expert and public policy debates. Members of the IBME are present in the global academic discourse through their membership in professional associations such as International Association of Bioethics (IAB), European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Health Care (ESPMH), Swiss Society of Biomedical Ethics (SGBE/SSEB), German Academy of Medical Ethics (AEM) as well as through their role as reviewers and editors for national and international journals (Bioethica Forum; Journal of Medical Ethics; Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy; Ethik in der Medizin) and their exchange with international organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Council of Europe.