Global Bioethics: A Conference Recap

No items found.
No items found.
Back to Dignitas Issue

The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD) held its 16th annual summer bioethics conference July 16-18, 2009, on the campus of Trinity International University (TIU) and attracted over 200 attendees including professionals from a variety of fields and a number of graduate and undergraduate students. The summer 2009 conference, titled Global Bioethics: Emerging Challenges Facing Human Dignity, boasted eight plenary sessions with special attention given to the increasingly sophisticated issues presented by the emerging scientific and technological innovations forcing the expansion beyond traditional bioethical categories, as well as a global context in which these issues bypass borders and national governance. CBHD’s new Executive Director, Paige C. Cunningham, JD served as emcee for the conference.

“The conference struck a good balance,” said second year Trinity Evangelical Divinity School student Blake Oakley. This was Oakley’s first bioethics conference and he was impressed that the conference was academically appealing for those trained in bioethics, but also very accessible to someone, like himself, who may be unfamiliar with the subject of human dignity.

Each session communicated a bioethical issue that needed attention from bioethicists, policy-makers, and the general public. “The speakers' expertise and international diversity impressed us with the seriousness and global reach of bioethical challenges,” said Cunningham. Several conference attendees expressed surprise towards the content of the plenary session discussing organ transplantation and medical tourism in India. The speaker “highlighted an important global bioethical issue that is often overlooked in the West,” said Kirstin Riggan who is in her final year of the MA Bioethics at Trinity Graduate School.

In addition to the plenary sessions, parallel paper presentations were also offered on Friday and Saturday of the conference. Attendees took advantage of these presentations and filled the classrooms to the point that additional chairs were necessary and in some cases a larger meeting room. Each presentation sparked ample conversation and questions which were welcomed by the presenter.

Though the conference itself was July 16-18, pre-conference institutes and post-conference seminars were offered to anyone who desired a firmer grasp of the bioethics field than can be provided in a conference alone. While many course attendees are students in the degree program, a larger than average group of auditors participated in the classes as well. The courses range from an introductory survey of bioethics to focused examination of advanced topics in emerging areas of bioethics (such as the Global Biotechnology Institute) on to practical courses focused on developing skills necessary to work in bioethics (such as the Teaching Bioethics and Bioengagement courses).

Cunningham taught the Intensive Institute during the pre-conference and had a range of students from college students to medical doctors who have years of firsthand experience with bioethical dilemmas. She was struck by their level of engagement. “The integration of undergrad students and grad or higher level students is probably one of the best aspects of this program,” said one of Cunningham’s students.

The attendance and participation at this year’s event was encouraging to CBHD’s Event and Education Manager Jen McVey who began coordinating the conference after being hired in February 2009.