Zur Navigation springen Zum Inhalt springen
logo universität wien

Challenges of Biomedicine – Socio-Cultural Contexts, European Governance, and Bioethics

Final Online Publication, edited by Ulrike Felt and Maximilian Fochler


The CoB project aimed at exploring the interrelation between socio-cultural conditions and public perceptions of medical research and practice. It poses the question to what extent concepts of identity on the cultural, bioethical and political level are influenced by biomedicine and, conversely, shape and regulate biomedical practices themselves.

The socio-cultural background of modern biomedicine was examined in a comparative analysis of qualitative empirical data gathered in different European countries: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Cyprus. Moreover, perspectives from Latvia and Great Britain were taken into account selectively. The emphasis of the project lies on the question how laypeople and patients view modern medicine and live with it. The interactions and interdependencies between medicine and culture were analysed along two main comparative axes. On a first level the countries involved were compared to trace different cultural approaches. Secondly, two different medical technologies, organ transplantation and postnatal genetic testing, were used as comparative examples. These two technologies raise different ethical and social problems and hence challenges for governance.

On this basis, the CoB project developed conclusions and recommendations for the academic context as well as for European and national policy makers. These address questions of European harmonisation, citizen participation and governance as well as bioethical issues.

Thematic objectives

  • Qualitative comparative research on different socio-culturally framed ways of dealing with modern biomedicine in selected European countries
  • Investigation on how members of the public assess the impact of modern biomedical technologies on their body, identity, ways of knowing and social relations 
  • Analysis of how European citizens reflect on the socio-political consequences of modern biomedical technologies, different modes of governance as well as opportunities of public participation 
  • Investigation of the role of cultural concepts like identity and bodily integrity in the present bioethical discourse
  • Reflection and evaluation of the consequences of the cultural plurality of moral conceptions on the debate on European bioethics 
  • Recommendations for the development of ethical regulations and possibilities of governing research and practise in the field of medicine and life sciences

Methodological and theoretical objectives

  • Contribution to interdisciplinary research at the interface of bioethics, social studies of science and medical anthropology
  • Advancement of qualitative comparative methods for investigating patients’ and laypeople’s attitudes towards questions of biomedicine in an international and interdisciplinary research setting
  • Development of key concepts for an intercultural bioethical discourse 
  • Establishment and structuring of a European network for the exploration of biomedicine from an ethical and sociological point of view

Institutions and people involved

  • University of Vienna, Department of Social Studies of Science (Co-ordinator)
    Prof. Ulrike Felt, Maximilian Fochler, Ruth Müller, Peter Winkler
  • Humboldt University Berlin, Department of European Ethnology
    Prof. Stefan Beck, Katrin Amelang
  • University of Lund, Sweden, Centre for Theology and Religious Study  & Dep. of European Ethnology
    Prof. Susanne Lundin, Helena Röcklinsberg, Anna Johansson
  • Makarios III Medical Centre, Cyprus, Nicosia Dept. of Clinical Genetics
    Violetta Christophidou Anastasiadou, Costas Constantinou
  • University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, Institute for Ethics
    Prof. Marcus Düwell, Annika DenDikken, Nils Nijsingh
  • University of Latvia, Latvia, Department of Sociology
    Aivita Putnina
  • University of Nancy, France, Research Group on Information, Communication and Propaganda
    Anne Masseran, Philippe Chavot
  • University of Leeds, UK, Institute of Health Sciences and Public Health
    Prof. Darren Shickle, Marcus Griffin
  • University of Goettingen, Germany, Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine
    Prof. Silke Schicktanz, Mark Schweda

Cite as: Challenges of Biomedicine. Final Online Publication, accessed at: [Mainpagepage: www.univie.ac.at/virusss/cobpublication]

This Final Online Publication is Deliverable No5, the comprised Short Report on Consequences and Recommendations Deliverable No6 to the Contract of the FP6 Project “Challenges of Biomedicine” (Project no. SAS6-CT-2003-510238)