The Centre for Health Ethics, Law and History (CHELH) is a division of the Institute of Health Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine at Vilnius University. The head of the Centre is Prof. Dr. Eugenijus Gefenas. The division was established in 2002 as the Unit for the History and Ethics of Medicine and was reorganized into the Centre for Health Ethics, Law and History in 2018.
The main aim of the Centre is to introduce medical humanities for future healthcare professionals.
The objectives of the Centre:
1. To prepare medical history and health ethics study programmes and tools for students in all specialties at the Faculty of Medicine.
2. To initiate and organize research in medical history and health ethics.
3. To develop international cooperation.
4. To form and promote interest in health ethics and medical history in Lithuania.
The Centre is actively involved in international projects. As a result of international cooperation, the Regional Bioethics Information Centre supported by UNESCO was established on 13 September 2004.
Research and scholarly activity
Fields of research in medical ethics:
- Ethical aspects of biomedical research with humans
- Academic integrity
Fields of research in medical history:
- Development of the Faculty of Medicine of Vilnius University in the 18th–20th centuries
- Development of health sciences, public health, treatment practice, and the history of social medicine in Lithuania in the 16th–20th centuries
- Research of the activities of members of the Vilnius Medical Society and other eminent doctors
- 2022–2024: Horizon 2020 project “PREPARED: Pro-active Pandemic Crisis Ethics and Integrity Framework” aims to develop effective guidelines for research ethics and responsible conduct of research in order to ensure a rapid and effective response of research to crises and possible pandemics based on ethical values.
- 2022–2024: Horizon 2020 project “iRECS: improving Research Ethics Expertise and Competences to Ensure Reliability and Trust in Science” aims 1) to analyse the needs of new technologies (artificial intelligence, mobile, genome editing technologies) in the European and international research ethics communities, 2) to develop training material for European and international research ethics communities, 3) to develop training programmes, and 4) to make proposals for the regulation of European research ethics processes.
- The Nordic-Baltic Network of Philosophy of Medicine (NBNPM) has been operating since 2008. The aim of the network is to establish the identity of philosophy of medicine in the Nordic and Baltic countries, taking into account the institutional and academic environment for research in these countries.
- 2019–2022: Horizon 2020 project EU-STANDS4PM (“EU-STANDS4PM: A European standardization framework for data integration and data-driven in silico models for personalized medicine”) aimed to address ethical and legal conflicts arising from Big Data related to integration of various health-related data in personalized medicine approaches.
- 2019–2022: Horizon 2020 project INTEGRITY (INTEGRITY: empowering students through evidence-based, scaffolded learning of Responsible Conduct in Research [RCR]) aimed to create attractive teaching tools for pupils, undergraduate and doctoral students to teach them the issues of academic integrity and research ethics.
- 2015–2019: Horizon 2020 project “ENERI: European Network of Research Ethics and Research Integrity” aimed to strengthen educational and training activities in the fields of research ethics and academic integrity, to develop a culture of integrity, and to promote normative policies.
- 2004–2018: FOGARTY (“Advanced Certificate Program in Research Ethics for Central and Eastern Europe”) aimed to provide Central and Eastern European students with the knowledge and skills in research ethics and international bioethics so they could become independent research ethics experts and lecturers in their countries, and to build a network of research ethics in Central and Eastern Europe.
- 2012–2016: COST project “Disaster Bioethics: addressing ethical issues triggered by disasters” aimed to create and develop an interdisciplinary network of scientists, support organizations and policy makers who could address ethical issues related to natural disasters.
- 2008–2011: “ETHICSWEB: European Information and Documentation System for Ethics and Science: European Ethical Documentation Centre” aimed to establish a European Ethical Documentation Centre – a joint European information and documentation system for ethics and science.
- 2008–2011: “TISS.EU: Evaluation of Legislation and Related Guidelines on the Procurement, Storage and Transfer of Human Tissues and Cells Assessment in the European Union – an Evidence-Based Impact Analysis” aimed to evaluate regulatory documents in relation to procurement, storage and transfer of human tissue and cells for research in the European Union and the impact of these documents on research in the EU Member States and in Switzerland.
- 2007–2009: “PRIVILEGED: Privacy in Law, Ethics and Genetic Data” aimed to identify ethical and legal problems in research, using genetic data and biobanks.
- 2006–2009: “GENBENEFIT: Genomics and Benefit Sharing with Developing Countries – from Biodiversity to Human Genomics” aimed to collect information about existing benefit sharing frameworks with regard to human genetic resources; to explore paradigmatic international case studies in order to identify ethical concerns and possible solutions; to create an international network of experts and stakeholders on benefit sharing; and to promote future policy development by developing “ethics health check”.
- 2004–2007: “EU-RECA: European project on delimiting the research concept and research activities” aimed to delimit the concept of “research” and “research activities” and how they differ from other activities; to analyse problems in distinguishing “research” from “non-research” when developing databases and biobanks; and to search and analyse the most appropriate criteria for distinguishing the concepts of “research” and “research activities” in different fields of science.
- 2004–2005: “EHBP: European Hospital-Based Bioethics Programme” aimed to prepare guidelines and specific educational bioetics programmes (modern medical ethics) for healthcare professionals that would both reflect European trends and be adapted to the socio-cultural situation of a particular country.
- 2002–2005: “PRIVIREAL: Privacy in Research Ethics and Law” aimed to analyse the implementation of EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC in relation to biomedical research in the participating countries and to examine the role of ethics committees.
- 2002–2005: EURETHNET: Development of the European Information Network Ethics in Medicine and Biotechnology” aimed to develop an online information network and database in the field of biotechnology and medical ethics.
History of Medicine course. The present-day History of Medicine course can be traced back to the Stephen Batory University (SBU), in Poland. In 1922, the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine was established at the Faculty of Medicine at SBU, and Prof. Stanislaw Trzebiński (1861-1930) was appointed as its head.
In 1944, the History of Medicine course was taught in the Departments of Health Care Organisation, Hygiene, Social Hygiene and Health Care Organisation. From 1970 to 2015, the History of Medicine course was taught by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vitalija Miežutavičiūtė and other lecturers.
On 1 May 1998, on the initiative of the medical historian Dr Aurimas Andriušis, the Centre for Medical History and Information with an integrated Museum of the History of Medicine was founded. Until 2009, the museum was headed by Dr Silvija Stakulienė, and since 2010, the museum has been headed by Irma Kušeliauskaitė
Since 2015, Aistis Žalnora has been teaching the History of Medicine course. In the intervening years, Eglė Sakalauskaitė-Juodeikienė, Monika Ramonaitė and other lecturers joined. The sphere of interest of the historians at the History of Medicine department covers a wide period from the 16th century to the end of the Cold War. The teaching staff collaborate with Lithuanian and international colleagues, participate in the Erasmus teacher exchange, and belong to local and international organisations of medical historians.
Health Ethics. The origins of teaching health (medical) ethics in Lithuania can also be traced back to the activities of the Department of History and Philosophy in Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine at SBU. At the same time, in the 1920s and 30s, medical ethics, then known as ‘doctor’s ethics’, was not yet taught as a separate discipline at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, but rather was integrated into other disciplines.
In 1993, Prof. Eugenijus Gefenas began teaching a more modern course on medical ethics. In 2003, the newly established Department of History and Ethics of Medicine organised the 17th International Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Healthcare (ESPMH) https://www.espmh.org/past-conferences/. On 13 September 2004, the UNESCO Regional Bioethics Information Centre was opened at the division’s premises. In 2005, in collaboration with the Union Graduate College in the USA, the division developed a postgraduate programme on Research Ethics in Central and Eastern Europe for central and eastern European graduates: https://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R25-TW007085-14 .
From 2006 to the present, the centre’s researchers have been actively involved in international projects such as, GenBenefit: Genomics and benefit sharing with developing countries – from biodiversity to human genomics; TISS.EU: The evaluation of legislation and related guidelines on the procurement, storage and transfer of human tissues and cells in the European Union; Disaster Bioethics: addressing ethical issues triggered by disasters; ENERI: The European Network of Research Ethics and Research Integrity; INTEGRITY: Empowering students through evidence-based, scaffolded learning of responsible Conduct in Research (RCR); EU-STANDS4PM: A European standardization framework for data integration and data-driven in silico models for personalized medicine.
For more on projects visit HERE.
Publications by Academic Staff
Partnership associate professors