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

Final Online Publication, edited by Ulrike Felt and Maximilian Fochler

Conference "Engineering European Bodies - When Biomedical Technologies Challenge European Governance, Bioethics and Identities"

Aim of the project’s final conference was to present project results, to discuss them in a broad international audience, and to reflect on appropriate ways to formulate and disseminate the project’s final recommendations.

The conference took place at the Campus of the University of Vienna from the 14th to the 17th of June, 2007. It was attended by 72 visitors from various EU member countries as well as North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Attendants were coming from various disciplinary backgrounds – such as anthropology, ethics, history, medicine, religious studies, political sciences, sociology as well as social studies of science.

The main points of discussion were introduced by keynote speakers in four plenary sessions and further elaborated and specified in eight parallel sessions, where in total 28 papers were presented:
A central focus was placed on the challenges of governing biomedical innovation in a pluralistic Europe. Speakers from different disciplinary backgrounds pointed out an often lacking political awareness for complex actor constellations and socio-cultural differences in styles of governing biomedicine. Further also the role of bioethics committees as new influential political actors was critically evaluated in several conference sessions. Generally it was consented that the systematic consideration of the cultural richness and diversity of the European (techno) political landscape is constitutive for attempts of European harmonisation.

This argument was further elaborated and specified in a special focus on the public uptake of and participative engagement in biomedical governance. A number of contributions pointed out that the public assessment of what counts as appropriate and trustworthy governance differs strongly with regard to the respective political culture but also the biomedical technology at stake. Accordingly, also public engagement as such is not to be considered as unconditionally welcomed, but perceived as strongly dependent from the respective context and mode of implementation.

The very impact of biomedicine on concepts of identity was a further central issue at the conference. Critically challenging the still predominant narratives of enhancement, innovation and progress in the healthcare context, a stronger focus on patients’ very own understanding of relevant knowledge, the impact of biomedicine on their body and self-understanding but also their wider social relations was emphasised in several talks. 

Finally also the challenges and advantages of the interdisciplinary research were at stake, discussing both the mutual inspiration and learning opportunities from each other, but also debating on how to deal with crucial different research approaches, goal formulations and prejudices arising in the context of cooperation.

The discussions sketched above were further continued in the course of the social program of the conference – whereby especially the joint visit of a traditional Viennese Heurigen was very much enjoyed by the audience. 

For further information on the conference, the final conference program and the abstract book, please visit the conference webpage.

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)