Bioethics, Biolaw, and Medical Humanities: A Swiss-Russian Comparative Research

Bioethics is a field of academic inquiry that deals with the ethical questions arising at the intersection of medicine, life sciences, law and philosophy. In addition to the classic issues relating to the physician-patient relationship, bioethics explores new areas of ethical debate concerning technological developments in life sciences and medicine, as well as questions of social justice and public health. The study of these issues from a legal perspective leads to what has been called biomedical law or "biolaw". These ethical and legal approaches are complemented by the contributions from the humanities and social sciences (literature, history, anthropology, etc.), which enable a better and deeper understanding of the lived experiences of stakeholders (patients and their families, and healthcare professionals). Futhermore, it is important to be aware that bioethics and related disciplines transcend national borders and  have global implications; the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown that we live in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, and that coherent, effective and ethically based responses to emerging challenges in this area require close collaboration between countries.

This is the context in which the current project of interdisciplinary cooperation between scholars from Swiss and Russian universities will take place. The overarching goal is to explore together the foundations and approaches to bioethics, biomedical law and medical humanities in both countries and to mutually benefit from the cross-fertilization of ideas and exchange of complementary expertise. Although discussions on the comparative approaches to bioethics in Switzerland and Russia will frame the collaboration, a particular emphasis will be placed on the educational dimension of the planned partnership. To this purpose, the collaborating universities will host workshops and conferences in both Zurich and St. Petersburg, and provide teaching to graduate and doctoral students in both countries.

The long-term goal of the project is to establish a solid basis for a permanent collaboration between the partner institutions and to thereby allow students and early career researchers to reflect on intercultural dimensions and conflicts in bioethics and biolaw. As the UK Lancet Commission on Culture and Health outlined in 2015, competences in the communication of care and the incorporation of cultural diversity in medical and bioethics curricula urgently need to be developed further. The multidisciplinary background of the partners involved in this project will contribute to the aim of developing key resources for teaching  and to transfer conceptual and methodological approaches in bioethics and related fields in a context of cultural diversity.

Partner institutions are:

  1. Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich
  2. Chair of Pedagogy and Psychology, Faculty of Postgraduate Education, Pavlov First State Medical University of St. Petersburg
  3. Department of Health Care and Medical Law, Faculty of Medicine, and Faculty of Law, Saint Petersburg State University


University of Zurich:

St. Petersburg State University:

Pavlov First State Medical University of St. Petersburg: