Contemporary Debates in Bioethics: Ethical Issues about Genetics

The increase in genetic medical knowledge and technologies brings many challenges that need to be addressed. Technological advancements such as Next Generation Sequencing or CRISPR-Cas9 let the genetic research findings explode. More and more genetic tests and applications reach the clinical setting around the world. For example, predictive genetic testing to assess a person’s inherited cancer risk. Or pharmaco-genomic testing, performed in order to tailor drugs to genetic predisposition. Or preimplantation genetic testing, a topic which was publicly discussed in Switzerland in 2015/2016 due to public votes. Or genetic testing that can be ordered online – and gives every paying customer information about genetic traits and risks directly on their computer. These examples illustrate how broadly genetic testing is already used today – and with the technological and research advancements, we certainly will have even more in a couple of years’ time. This opens a large variety of ethical questions, challenges and dilemma, such as: How reliable is genetic information? Who should have access to genetic testing, when does it make sense? How do we provide appropriate information and counselling prior and after genetic testing? How should doctors deal with incidental findings during a genetic test? How do people deal with disclosed risks and the uncertainty? How do they disclose information to their family members? And to what extend could the targeted editing of the genome lead into the slippery slope of Eugenics?
This Spring semester’s Contemporary Debates Seminar will try to shed a light into some of the mentioned aspects. In eight lectures, participants will get introductions into and will discuss about different ethical issues in genetics. The lectures will feature leading international experts in the field.

Location: Klinikum 1, Hörsaal 3, University Hospital Basel (Spitalstrasse 21)






Genetics in the public discourse

Bettina Zimmermann, Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel


Genetics and personalized medicine 

Prof. Dr. Barbara Prainsack, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna (AT)


Ethical issues in gene editing

Dr. Heidi Howard, Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics, Uppsala University (SE)


Challenges in patient-provider communication regarding hereditary cancer risk

Prof. Dr. Maria Caiata Zufferey, Faculty of Communication Sciences, University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Southern Switzerland SUPSI


Ethical issues around non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

Dr. Lidewij Henneman, Associate professor, Dept of Clinical Genetics, section Community Genetics, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam (NL)


The search for ethics in genetics guidelines

Dr. David Shaw, Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel


Ethical issues of research with genetic material

Dr. Gaia Barazetti, Faculté des Lettres, Faculté de Biologie et de Médecine, Université de Lausanne, CHUV


Regulations and policy of genetics: a European perspective

Prof. Dr. Silvia Salardi, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca