Contemporary Debates in Bioethics: Clinical Ethics

Instructor: Prof. Bernice Elger and international guest lecturers

Coordinator: Yi Jiao (Angelina) Tian


Purpose of the Lecture:

As a quintessential part of biomedical ethics research, clinical ethics is a practical discipline that provides a structured approach to assist health professionals in identifying, analyzing and resolving ethical issues that arise in clinical practice. Ongoing developments in medical technology, particularly at the beginning and end of life, may raise awareness of, or concerns about the ethical dimensions of clinical care. In face of changing social, cultural and public attitudes towards healthcare professions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical ethics tries to address the conflicts that arise when the values of parties involved are at odds. In this lecture series, we have invited one guest lecturer per week to speak on this wide dimension of topics.


Intended Learning outcomes:

With the progression of these lectures, students are able to first grasp the foundational principles that guide clinical ethicists, understand the critical issues for various population groups, and participate in lively discussions on specific anonymized cases. Together with internationally renowned experts, we will uncover questions such as: What do clinical ethicists do? How could they help healthcare professionals and patients in face of moral distress and difficult situations? What set-backs have they encountered during the pandemic? How could they help the healthcare field be more culturally-sensitive?


Course Requirements:

For University of Basel students, to pass this course you are required to:

  1. Attend at least 8 out of 10 total lectures and participate actively. In case of unavoidable further absences, please contact me. These can possibly be compensated by an additional assignment (e.g. an additional short essay)
  2. Critically read the suggested readings for each lecture (uploaded on ADAM and distributed via email 1 week prior to lecture)
  3. Write a short essay on a topic in clinical ethics of your interest


Course Structure

Most lectures will take place on Mondays from 12:15 to 13:45 (see timetable for exceptions). When the situation permits, we will try to have in-person lectures on 19.09, 03.10, 17.10, 14.11 following all the regulatory constraints by the University of Basel. All other sessions are held over Zoom.

Joining over Zoom for in-person lectures is available for participants who have exceptional reasons and cannot participate in-person. Please let Angelina ( know if you cannot participate in-person for these sessions, otherwise students are expected to arrive on-site.


As this course is given to the University of Basel students for credit with requirements to pass, no restrictions for attendance and credit points are given to non-University members. Registration required for location/Zoom access via Angelina Tian (


Support for Students:

All readings and presentation material (if given permission by the lecturer) will be uploaded on ADAM.

If you have feedback, questions or input that might be interesting for other members of the course, you are very encouraged to bring them to the discussion at the end of each lecture. If you prefer, you are always free to contact the coordinator via email: (


Course dates:


Lecture Name




Introduction to Clinical Ethics

PD Dr. med. Dr. phil Manuel Trachsel.


Position: Head of the Clinical Ethics Unit at the University Hospital of Basel, the University Psychiatric Clinics Basel, and the Geriatric University Clinic Felix Platter Basel, Switzerland.

Basel (Zoom accessible)


Autonomy  and SCD : General and Primary Care

Dr. med. John Spicer


Position: Senior Clinical Lecturer in Medical Ethics & Law at St. George’s University of London

Online (Zoom)


Issues in Physician-Patient Relationships

Prof. Dr. Autumn M. Fiester


Position: Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania; Director of the Penn Program in Clinical Conflict Management

Basel (Zoom accessible)


Clinical ethics considerations in Pre-natal and Pregnancy Care

PD Dr. Dagmar Schmitz


Position: Research Associate at the Institute for History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine at the University Hospital of Aachen; Physician and clinical ethicist; Managing Director of the Clinical Ethics Committee at the University Hospital RWTH Aachen; Trainer for Ethics Consulting in Health Care (AEM)

Online (Zoom)


Consent of Children and Adolescents in Clinical Practice

Dr. med. Magdalena Balcerek


Position: Resident physician at the Klinik für Pädiatrie m. S. Onkologie/ Hämatologie, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Basel (Zoom accessible)



Theoretical dimension of Palliative Care: Decisions-to-limit- treatment

Prof. Dr. Eva Winkler


Position: Group Leader at Ethics and Patient oriented Care in Oncology (NCT-EPOC), National (German) Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) at the University Hospital Heidelberg

Online (Zoom)


Practical dimension of Palliative Care: Daily operations at a nursing home

Mrs. Melissa Gaule


Position: Director of Palliative Care and Provider Management at Hospice Savannah, USA; MA, HEC-C Healthcare Ethics Consultant

Online (Zoom)



Vaccine Ethics

Dr. Kyle Ferguson


Position: Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies; Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Medical Ethics, Department of Population Health, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Online (Zoom)


Clinical Ethics and COVID

Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Ehni


Position: Deputy director at the Institute for Ethics and History of Medicine at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen

Basel (Zoom accessible)



Nursing Ethics

Dr. Georgina Morley


Position: Nurse Ethicist and Director of the Nursing Ethics Program at Cleveland Clinic

Online (Zoom)