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Bioethics and Health Law in the Information Age

Dunedin | 27–28 January 2017

The conference will feature Continuing Medical Education workshops, elective sessions, and presentations focusing on the digitalisation of health in the Information Age. 

The Information Age refers to the collection and storage of (potential) health-related data and metadata, as well as the technologies that provide the means to manipulate, aggregate, utilise, and disseminate this information. With this shift toward digitalisation comes possibilities for future action that are only now beginning to be explored in an academic context. This is an area with which bioethics and law need to keep up!

This international conference will explore the following themes:

  • Big data
  • Trust and privacy: Mobile devices, social media, and professional boundaries
  • Artificial intelligence, healthcare, and conceptions of humanness
  • Dual-use technologies
  • Other current issues in bioethics and health law

View the NZ Bioethics Conference Programme (PDF 61KB)

Continuing Medical Education

CME workshops and plenaries will be offered at the conference on the following topics:

Research ethics in the age of data: getting the balance right

Public sector agencies globally are under mounting pressure to use their data to drive better, cheaper, more efficient public services, whilst protecting citizens’ privacy. Greater access to clinical material for research has potential high social value in terms of big data analytics, reproducibility of research results, comparative effectiveness studies of existing health treatments, and the capacity to develop a world leading ‘learning healthcare system’ in NZ. The World Economic Forum has described personal data as a “new economic asset class” and analysis has suggested that a global market powered by open data from across seven sectors would create between $3tn and $5tn of value a year. The challenge is to generate, use and extend access to data while, at the same time, protecting citizen’s interests in their health information.

In this CME session we will discuss the increasing demand to use clinical data for research without patient consent. This session will be interactive and focused on three cases studies. Discussion will be facilitated by three experts in research ethics, philosophy, and Maori health. We will consider the current regulatory context and assess vignettes against the criteria for use of health data in section 6.43 in the NZ Ethical Guidelines for Observational Studies. We also consider some emerging international trends and the challenges these research strategies might pose in the NZ context. The first relates to the use of social media sources and the meaning of ‘public versus private’. The second relates to relationships with industry and commercial access public health data.

Impaired capacity to consent

This stream will address decision-making with impaired competence, including a plenary lecture on the concepts of impaired autonomy and competence to be given by Neil Pickering. Workshops will be run alongside the general session, in which the framework for decision-making and its clinical applications will be discussed using a series of case studies. These case studies will be responded to by a panel of experts (Alison Douglass, Greg Young, MaryLou Harrigan, and Neil Pickering). The panel will discuss strategies for managing the types of situations raised by the case studies in both clinical and research settings.

For details, contact

Registration for CME is included in the general conference fee!