The Institute for Ethics, History, and the Humanities (iEH2) addresses important issues of contemporary medicine by integrating approaches from the human and social sciences as well as from the biomedical sciences. The research carried out here applies tools from different disciplines to explore the ethical issues of medicine and life sciences to offer a broad and contextualized understanding of the issues and challenges at stake, and to propose a critical analysis of medicine and its relationship with the different contexts in which it is practiced over time. A library specializing in these fields, which includes a film collection, is available to researchers and the public. Furthermore, iEH2 staff offer interdisciplinary courses in biomedical ethics, human sciences in medicine, and the history of medicine, as well as seminars and public lectures.
Research carried out at iEH2 focuses on three main subjects:
The origins of bioethics are manifold. This relatively new discipline follows a two-fold objective: to reflect on the practices of medical research on human beings, and to critically rethink paternalistic conceptions of traditional medical ethics, shaken by the therapeutic revolutions and social changes of the 20th century. In addition to this concern to reform biomedical practices, the 1980s saw a growing interest in medically assisted procreation and genetic engineering, and then in biotechnologies in general, with or wothout medical applications. Today, social and ethical issues related to medicine and health are an important part of bioethics. Thus, over the years, it became unavoidable for healthcare profesisonnals as well as, increasingly, for scientists and other professionals concerned with life sciences and their philosophical and social implications.
The Institute for Ethics, History, and the Humanities coordinates training in bioethics and clinical ethics for the Bachelor and Master's degrees in human medicine. It also offers pre-graduate teaching in bioethics to students in life sciences, philosophy, political science, as well as to students enrolled in master's programmes in neurosciences. Postgraduate courses in bioethics and clinical ethics are integrated into the training courses in psychiatry, internal medicine, medical genetics, as well as in the training of clinical investigators.
Medical Humanities brings together different approaches to common issues related to the social, historical, cultural, economic and ethical challenges of medicine and health care practices. In their dialogue with clinicians, researchers, caregivers and medical students, Medical Humanities bring a complementary, critical, contextualized and reflective perspective - a perspective that is necessary for an in-depth understanding of today's medicine and the health challenges posed by the evolution of our societies.
iEH2 participated in the elaboration of the brochure of the Swiss Academies Medical Humanities: the significance of human and social sciences for the medical and health professions (Swiss Academies Communications 9(5), 2014).
Every society has its healers; every medicine has its historians. This brief sentence summarizes the observation of an inescapable relationship, although mutable in time and space, between medicine, history and society.
An institute for the history of medicine was founded in Geneva in 1994, thanks to the support of the Faculty of Medicine and the Louis Jeantet Foundation, thus showing a long local tradition in this field, from the publication of the History of Medicine by the Geneva physician and scientist Daniel Leclerc (1696) to the courses given by Jean Starobinski in the 1980s. Since its beginnings, the Institute has been characterized by its international and transdisciplinary vocation through its members, collaborations and research. The practice of a history of medicine in dialogue with the historiographical debates underway in Europe and the United States has taken place, therefore inevitably sensitive to interactions with the social sciences, in particular anthropology, sociology and gender studies.
It is on the basis of this marked identity that the History of Medicine Programme constitutes, since October 2012, one of the three pillars of iEH2. Our research favours a contextual approach to the study of the medicine of the past, an approach that is therefore led by the careful study and interpretation of sources allowing a critical look at the actors, facts and ideas. These same principles inspire our pre- and post-graduate teaching, which aims to stimulate a critical and informed reflection on the present through the study of the past.