Biomedical Culture and Ethics in German-Israelic Comparison

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine

Multilevel project 2007 – 2009
2009: funded by the Ministry of Science and Culture Lower Saxony (NMWK)
2008: funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) & German-Israeli Year of Science and Technology
2007–2008: funded by the German-Israeli Foundation (GIF)

Duration: 2007-2009

Carried out by: Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

The research project "Culture and Ethics of Biomedicine in German-Israeli Comparison" deals with the intersection between ethics, social sciences and life sciences on the level of cultural comparison.

German-Israeli Workshop "The Culture and Ethics of Biomedicine in Germany and Israel"

November 30 - December 6, 2009

Participants of this course were young junior researchers from Israel and Germany working in the fields of clinical medicine, medical ethics, cultural studies, law, sociology and theology (PhD students/early post-docs/young professionals). Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz (Göttingen) and Prof. Dr. Aviad Raz (Beer Sheva) led this seminar week at the University Medical Center Göttingen.

The intensive training course of six days included the following main topics:
   a) Decisions at the beginning of life,
   b) end-of-life decisions and advance directives,
   c) organ donation and regenerative medicine,
   d) genetic testing and health care,
   e) development of public health and health policy.

Due to the bi-national cooperation the workshop was held in English. The program included overview talks as well as detailed study presentations. Introductory lectures by the course instructors and other relevant experts from Germany and Israel provided basic knowledge and information on methods of medical ethical analysis.

In addition, the young scientists worked in small working groups (a maximum of three participants), using literature and interdisciplinary discussions, to independently develop one of the three central perspectives:
   a) medical practice and health policy perspective, 
   b) cultural aspects such as religion, language, historical development and 
   c) ethical and legal issues.

Independently working in the working groups made it possible for the participants to implement and deepen the knowledge they had previously received and to develop and work on their own questions through direct interdisciplinary discussion.

Download final report

Bodies in Culture - Bioethical Aspects of Biomedicine and its Socio-Cultural Contexts

German-Israeli-Foundation Young Scientist Programme (January 2007 - March 2008)

Overall, in most countries, not only the opportunities but also the risks and ethical problems of biomedicine raise academic and public awareness. Against this background, bioethics is defined as an academic investigation of ethical arguments and social concerns about life science research and medical practice. Bioethical discussions are often characterized by plurality and dissent. Recently there have been two interesting, rather antagonistic movements in bioethics: The one is oriented at the idea of an international, universally valid bioethics while the other one refers to bioethics as a cultural phenomenon which can only be understood in a close cultural context and is rather particularistic.

My general research interests are located at the intersection of this dispute. I am interested in the following two basic questions: A) How is the form and content of bioethics as a socio-political and academic practice influenced by culture, and B) How can we find a cross-cultural and inter-cultural ethical basis in a more and more globalized world?

On the basis of an intensive literature research and 14 interviews with Israeli experts the following issue was investigated:  What kind of moral differences and similarities do we find in the expert debate and in the public discourse with respect to the human body and human existence in limited situations such as the beginning and the end of human life?

Hereby, three essential lines for the analysis were followed:
   1. Structure of public ethics discourse and role of experts 
   2. Ethical discourse on decisions related to the beginning of human life 
   3. Ethical discourse on decisions related to the end of human life

For further results see:

  • Raz A. & Schicktanz S. (2009): Diversity and Uniformity in Genetic Responsibility: Moral Attitudes of Patients, Relatives and Lay People in Germany and Israel, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 13(4), 363-369.
  • Raz A. & Schicktanz S. (2009) Lay Perceptions of Genetic Testing in Germany and Israel: The Interplay of National Culture and Individual Experience, New Genetics and Society 28, 4, 401-414.
  • Schicktanz S., Raz A. and Shalev C. (2010): Cultural impacts on end of life ethics. A cross-comparative study between Germany and Israel, Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 19, 3, 381-394.

Workshop "Genetics and Society: Practices/Positions, Expert/Public Discourses"

December 14th- 16th 2008 Ben Gurion University, The Negev, Israel

Oganised by Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz and Prof. Dr. Aviad Raz.

The workshop focused on an important issue at the intersection between social sciences/ethics on the one hand, and life sciences on the other hand. The recent developments in medical genetics and genetic testing induce fast dynamics in the recent legal and ethical debates. Thus, we concentrate on the following bioethical topics: 

   a) The impact of genetic knowledge on communities and individuals 
   b) The impact of genetic knowledge on the conceptualisation of responsibility 
   c) The relationship of expert discourse and public understanding of genetics. 

As speakers well-known senior experts and young scientists with relevant research experience from Germany and Israel were invited from the different fields: bioethics, philosophy, legal studies, social science, history of science, and genetics. 

See also , Newsletter March 10, 2009.

Religion and Culture of Biomedicine - German-Israeli Dialogue: "The Influence of Culture and Religion on Biomedical Science. A German-Israeli Dialogue on the Medical Possibilities on the Edges of Life"

29. - 30. November 2007 (Berlin)

Invited keynote lecturers from Israel: Prof. Dr. A. Steinberg, Dr. C. Shalev and Prof. Dr. A. Raz; from Germany: Prof. Dr. C. Wiesemann, Dr. I. Sake, Prof. Dr. R. Anselm. The workshop was supported by own financial contributions and in personal and financial cooperation with the Protestant Academy of Berlin. A workshop documentation including summaries of the presentation and main parts of the discussions (in English/German) is edited by Simone Ehm and Silke Schicktanz and published by the Evangelischer Pressedienst, Frankfurt.

Further material:

Download Conference Program

Download Documentation of Conference



Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

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