- How should doctors conduct themselves morally?
- Is anything wrong with genetic engineering, and how might this compare to the valuable aspects of the technology?
- What obligations do biological scientists have to their research subjects and to wider society?
- When we call something a mental illness, what does this mean?
- When (if ever) is it permissible to interfere in individuals' reproductive decisions?
These are some of the ethical questions that arise within medicine and the life sciences, which need to be considered thoroughly in order to respond to them in a reasonable way.
This is the domain of bioethics.
Bioethics is the ethical study of issues arising within medicine and the life-sciences in their broadest senses. The Bioethics Centre is rated as an Area of Research Strength in the University of Otago, with an international reputation.
The Centre's aims are to conduct and co-ordinate teaching and research, to stimulate informed public debate, and to provide a consultation and resource service for health professionals and others in the community.
The Bioethics Centre at the University of Otago was established in 1988 in response to growing awareness of new ethical issues relating to law, medicine and technology; issues which touch the lives of everyone.
The backgrounds of the academic staff provide a variety of perspectives in the humanities and health, which helps students to reflect on current ethical issues in medicine, biology, health care, and the broader issues of environmental ethics.
Centre staff are also responsible for teaching one of the most extensive programmes in medical ethics of any medical school in the world, and also ethics courses in the undergraduate programmes of pharmacy, physiotherapy, oral health, and midwifery.
The Centre has developed a network of links with other research centres and attracts numerous overseas scholars and postgraduate students.
Within the Bioethics Centre, staff are pursuing a number of research projects including into cross-cultural bioethics, neuro-ethics, the uses of dead bodies and their parts, ethics in sports medicine, concepts of health, illness and disease, the aims and boundaries of medicine and health care, animal ethics, and a number of others.