In the Monash Bioethics Centre, we strive to engage deeply in shaping public debate and social policy on contemporary challenges, provide upskilling opportunities for current and future professionals in relevant areas and increase ethics literacy across society. The Centre provides advisory services for government, professional, educational, and community groups, and contributes to training for the current and next generation of healthcare, policy and community leaders.
We embed community engagement across both research and teaching to shape public debate on key issues, increase professional understanding of ethics and raise ethics literacy in public discussion, in forums such as:
- public lectures and media interviews
- short courses in practical ethics, including the Intensive Bioethics Course
- professional education across the University and in the broader community.
Our ethics leadership activities have an impact at both local and global levels. Researchers are involved in activities such as the formation of guidelines for resource allocation in Victoria during the COVID pandemic and how to respond to infectious diseases at an international level. The status of the Centre as a WHO Collaborating Centre is a central aspect of our national and international engagement. Through the Intensive Bioethics Course, Centre staff have contributed to bioethics training in Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
WHO Collaborating Centre for Bioethics
The Monash Bioethics Centre was officially designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Bioethics in 2014, with its current designation running until 2022. As one of 12 such Centres worldwide, the Monash Bioethics Centre is also part of the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics. Primary areas of activity with WHO include collaborative work on infectious disease ethics and research ethics. Monash Bioethics Centre has also contributed to, and often led, the development of numerous WHO guidance documents including:
- Key criteria for the ethical acceptability of COVID-19 human challenge studies
- Ethical issues associated with vector borne diseases
- WHO guidelines on ethical issues in public health surveillance
- Managing ethical issues in infectious disease outbreaks
- Ethics in epidemics, emergencies and disasters: Research, surveillance and patient care
- Ethical issues related to study design for trials on therapeutics for Ebola virus disease
- Ethical considerations for use of unregistered interventions for Ebola virus disease
- Expert consultation on the use of placebos in vaccine trials.
Ethical guidance on ICU resource allocation in Victorian hospitals during the COVID pandemic.
Centre staff led a team (which included key Western Health clinicians) who developed an ethical framework for Safer Care Victoria (in the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services) to assist Victorian hospitals with making ethical decisions about the allocation of Intensive Care Unit resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, if the demand for critical care resources exceeds available capacity. This project team developed the ethical guidance document, Ethical Guidance on Allocation of Critical Care Resources during COVID-19, and the consumer information document Allocation of Intensive Care Resources during COVID-19: Information for Patients and Families. These documents were distributed by SCV/DHHS to Victorian hospitals and health services, to inform the development of local ethical guidelines on the allocation of such resources.
For further information, see Ethical framework/guidelines for ICU resource allocation in Victorian hospitals during the COVID pandemic.
Intensive Bioethics Course
The Intensive Bioethics Course (IBC) provides an in-depth introduction to bioethical thinking and the ethical issues that emerge in related clinical and policy contexts. It is designed for medical professionals (e.g. physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical researchers, palliative care workers, dentists, dieticians, embryologists, etc.), members of human research and clinical ethics committees, public health practitioners, hospital administrators, health lawyers, and those involved or interested in public policy or advocacy work related to bioethics. It is also useful for people with a general interest in bioethics or considering further graduate study in bioethics.
The IBC currently runs as a three-day residential course consisting of seminars, forums and discussions led by leading experts in bioethics. It has a long history, having been initiated by Peter Singer in 1985. The IBC has provided ethics training to participants from countries such as Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG, in addition to numerous participants from across Australia.
Further details about upcoming IBCs will be available here in 2021.
Ethics in the MBBS/MD Degree at Monash University
The Monash Bioethics Centre provides a comprehensive ethics curriculum embedded in the Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine (MBBS/MD) program for the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University. The ethics curriculum runs across the Clayton and Malaysia campuses as well as schools of rural health in regional Victoria.
The ethics program provides students with a conceptual toolkit in ethics which is essential to their practising medicine ethically when they graduate as doctors. We use engaging, authentic and active approaches to teaching and learning to provide medical students with the conceptual tools to assist their ethical analysis of and extrapolation from case studies.
In addition, the Centre has led highly successful train-the-trainer workshops with medical ethics teaching staff, to contextualise and embed learning outcomes in ethics across the whole Monash course. This work in medicine has been informed by an understanding of professionalism as including an essential ethical dimension, and we contributed to the development of an overarching definition of professionalism in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences.
The medical ethics curriculum, teaching, and assessment typically receive very high ratings from medical students. It also received a commendation in the Australian Medical Council accreditation of the revised Monash Medicine course in 2017. This effective and innovative bioethics teaching, learning, and development of pedagogical content knowledge has also contributed to national and international dialogues about approaches to medical ethics education.
Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons) Ethics Stream
Staff at the Monash Bioethics Centre provide expert supervision for students completing the Ethics stream of the BMedSc(Hons) programme at Monash University. This is part of a partnership between the Centre, the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University and the The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University. In this partnership, students complete the BMedSc(Hons) at Monash, undertaking a period of study at Oxford University (travel conditions permitting).
Further information about the BMedSc(Hons) programme, can be found on the Monash Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences website.