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Centre for biomedical ethics and law (CBMER) - [Dutch]


Research Centre (national)


Schotsmans, Paul (Prof. Dr.)

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law

Kapucijnenvoer 35

3000 Leuven


Phone: +32-(0)16-336951 Fax: +32-(0)16-336952

URL: http://www.kuleuven.ac.be/cbmer/


Borghgraef, Roger

Short Description:

The Centre for biomedical ethics and law (CBMER) was created in 1986 by the Chairman for Bio-Medical Sciences, R. Borghgraef. The inauguration took place in presence of the American roman catholic moral theologian Richard A. McCormick, who received at the same time the degree of 'Doctor Honoris Causa' of the K.U.Leuven for his work in catholic medical ethics. The centre is fully integrated in the medical faculty and the group Bio-Medical Sciences. The medical school and the hospital ethics committee of the Medical School and the University Hospitals of the K.U.Leuven support fort the Centre. The staff consists of moral theologians, moral philosophers, specialists in medical law and affiliated scholars from other institutions, e.g. medical disciplines. The directors of the Centre are Prof. Dr. Paul Schotsmans, professor of medical ethics at the K.U.Leuven and Prof. Dr. Herman Nys, professor of medical law. The chairman of the hospital ethics committee (currently J. Vermylen, Dr. Med.) is also charged with the training in professional ethics for physicians and joins the daily direction of the Centre.

The mission of the Centre is threefold: training in medical ethics and law, research, and the provision of scientific and societal service in medical ethics and law.


At the request of several faculties of the Catholic University in Leuven and Kortrijk, the CBMER provides courses in medical ethics, health care ethics, nursing ethics, medical law, and health care organization for students in medicine, dentistry, nursing, familial and sexuological sciences, theology, law and philosophy. All students in medicine and moral theology of the K.U.Leuven are required to follow a course in biomedical ethics. Most of the courses are taught in English as well as in Dutch. This international dimension has recently been translated in a Masters Program for Applied Ethics and in a European Masters Degree in Bio-ethics (in cooperation with the other European universities).


The Centre is conducting research on various subjects concerning the theoretical, applied (ranging from reproductive technologies and the status of the embryo, to ethics committees and the care for patients with senile dementia) and societal aspects of bio-medical ethics.

At this moment the research activities of the Centre are clustered in the following areas: (1) legal and moral questions concerning the beginning of life such as: medical assisted reproduction in relation genetic diagnosis and therapy; predictive and preventive medicine; the use fetal tissue transplantation. (2) ethical and legal aspects of medical decisions at the end of life: euthanasia, palliative care, physician assisted suicide and the treatment of PVS patients. (3) ethics of care and nursing ethics. (4) legal aspects of the further use of human tissue. (5) the empirical turn in the ethical research methodology (6) professional codes, ethics consult. (7) stem cell research and cloning.

Most of the Centre's research activities have an international dimension. Researchers are closely working together with other European Centres and are participating to projects of the European Commission. Herman Nys is editor of the 'International Encyclopaedia of Laws' (Kluwer Academic Publishers) and president of the Advisory Group on Ethics of EuropaBio. Paul Schotsmans is president of the Eurotransplant Ethics Committee, member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Bioethics and former president of the European Association of Centres for Medical Ethics. Besides these important international engagements, the Centre also invites foreign researchers and guest professors.

Scientific and Social Service

Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, federal organizations, policy-making organizations, patients' groups and others ask for assistance in thinking about the ethical and legal aspects of medicine and health care in general. Members of the Centre also participate in several ethics committees. Both Schotsmans and Nys are members of the Belgian Federal Advisory Committee for Bio-ethics. Numerous lectures given all over the country reflect the strong and general interest in biomedical ethics and law. The library, specialized in literature on medical ethics and health care law (3.000 vol; 70 periodicals), functions as a documentation centre for students and research scholars.

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