Short Report – WCB 2018

The Forum for Medical Ethics Society (FMES), Mumbai, St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences (SJNAHS), Bengaluru; the Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action (SOCHARA,) Bengaluru and SAMA Resource Group for Women and Health, New Delhi co-hosted the joint 14thWorld Congress of Bioethics (WCB) and the 7thNational Bioethics Conference (NBC) in Bengaluru. The theme of the Congress was, ‘Health for all in an unequal world: Obligations of Global Bioethics’.  The WCB was hosted for the first time in South Asia and India is now among the few Southern countries to have hosted the congress. 765 delegates and more than 150 speakers  from 50 countries across the globe participated in the conference. The participants consisted of professionals, researchers, academicians, students and activists from the field of medicine, public health, administration and management, life sciences, law, media, philosophy, and social sciences. 

The Main Congress was preceded by two days of the 12th Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB) Congress, which deliberated upon feminist responses to the global challenges in health and heath care. There were eight Pre-Congress workshops/symposia on diverse topics: organ donation and transplantation (two pre-congresses), framing case reports for bioethics journals, paediatric bioethics, bio-markets, ethics, gender and political economy; developing a public health ethics curriculum; public engagement in studies related to the controlled human infection model (CHIM); and health care directives of the Catholic Church in India. 

In addition to five plenaries on the congress theme including and ‘editors panel’ as part of the closing plenary, 32 parallel tracks for oral presentations (112 presenters), eight parallel tracks for rapid round presentations (32 presenters),  48 in-congress workshops/symposia, and 96 poster presentations spread across three days enriched the congress deliberations. The inaugural plenary had the customary address by the president of the International Association of Bioethics over videolink. 

A parallel Arts Festival on Bioethics was one of the unique aspects of the congress which showcased the sub themes of the Congress through films, exhibitions, installations, theatre and the performing arts. The purpose was to trigger reflective deliberations, allow for an interdisciplinary understanding of healthcare ethics and nurture a respect for plurality in thought and expression. The festival had indoor sessions of 60-90 minutes each as well as open exhibitions. 

The first IJME Ethics Award was conferred at the congress to Sister Aquinas, for her life-long, self-less and dedicated medical service to the underprivileged and under-served people in Karnataka as also tribal areas of Odisha in India. FMES and IJME have instituted this award to recognise and honour individuals for their contribution to healthcare ethics and bioethics in India; and to facilitate bringing forth role models in health care profession who have upheld ethical practice despite all odds.

A total of 136  participants were supported through bursary funds. International Association of Bioethics also provided bursary support for some of the delegates who were current IAB members. A total of 16 delegates were supported through the bursary funds provided by IAB.