Complex Conflicts – Bioethics in Film and Public Discourse

Film Series I

A Film Series initiated by the Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine in cooperation with the cinema Lumière.

Duration: 2012-2013

Carried out by:

  • Dr. Solveig Lena Hansen
  • Dr. phil. Sabine Wöhlke


The negotiation of bioethical issues in feature films allows us to explore the - often ambivalent - impact of biotechnologies on our everyday lives. Even if some stories are regarded as 'unrealistic', the exaggeration of real moral, social and legal questions can serve a critical reflection of technological and medical progress. Especially since the central issues of such films always touch on real conflicts, such as self-determination and social control, personal identity, or medical ethos and misuse of research. When watching those movies, we can ask the following questions:

  • What is a good doctor-patient-relationship?
  • Do patients imake informed and voluntary decisions?
  • What is the role of identity, the family or gender in medical decisions?
  • Are there universal ethical standards in the field of medicine, or should cultural and historical contexts be considered as well?
  • (How) do research and therapy make use of patients and their bodies?
  • What role does medicine as research and therapy play for social and societal conceptions of the human being and its possibilities for improvement?
  • Whose interests are (not) considered in ethical and legal decisions in the field of medicine?

The selected feature films dealt with topics such as reproductive medicine, organ transplantation and euthanasia as well as disability and old age. They did not only concern theoretical questions, but always referred to the concrete reality of everyday life.

The film series Complex Conflicts aimed to discuss bioethical topics specifically with the interested public. For this purpose, team members of the Department of Ethics and History of Medicine have selected films that address current topics and controversies.

Each screening was accompanied by an academic program, which ranged from introductory lectures before the film to expert talks and panel discussions after the film.


Wöhlke, S.; Wolff, E. (2016): Real Humans –Echte Menschen? Ein interdisziplinäres Gespräch über Roboter, Pflege und Film. Mabuse, 224, 41, S. 34-38

Hansen, S.L.; Wöhlke, S. (2016): Contrasting Medical Technology with Deprivation and Social Vulnerability. Lessons for the Ethical Debate on Cloning and Organ Transplantation through the Film Never Let Me Go (2010). Nanoethics 10, 3, 245–256.

Wöhlke, S., Hansen, S.L., Schicktanz, S.: Themenheft der Zeitschrift Ethik in der Medizin (1/2015): Bioethik im Film. Potentiale, Methoden, Anwendungsfelder. This issue includes:

Solveig Lena Hansen; Sabine Wöhlke (2014): Movies, ready for an ethical debate? Die Göttinger Filmreihe “Komplexe Konflikte” als Diskurs über medizinethische Themen. In: Soziale Technik, 1, S. 5-7.

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