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Designation of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics as a WHO Collaboration Center; inaugural event 25-26 October 2010

The IBME has been designated a WHO Collaborating Center for Bioethics. The inaugural event took place 25-26 October 2010 at the University Zurich.

The inaugural event was greeted by the Dean of the Medical Faculty at the University of Zurich, Professor Klaus Grätz who referred to the significant achievements of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics including the honor to become a WHO Collaborating Center as well as the establishment of the first in Switzerland PhD program in Biomedical Ethics and Law.

Dr Rüdiger Krech, director of WHO/ETH, stressed the great contribution the IBME is making to the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centers for Bioethics.

Professor Biller-Andorno, director of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics officially welcomed the designation and accepted the WHO flag from Dr Krech.


A highlight of the inaugural event was the keynote talk on Technology Assessment and the U.S. “Affordable Care Act”: It’s About Ethics, Not Technology by Professor Alex Capron, University of South California (previous director of WHO/ETH).

For the occasion of the WHO designation, the IBME organized and hosted an international workshop on “The role of health technology assessment agencies in national rationing policies: towards elements for best practice”. The goal of the workshop was to debate the conceptual, methodological, legal and ethical challenges for national agencies involved in health resource allocation decisions as well as to start identifying essential elements for best practice. European health systems face common challenges in the form of finite health resources. Currently there are several national or regional institutions in charge of determining how resources should be spent. In France, Germany and the United Kingdom, for instance, institutions such as HAS, IQWIG and NICE have been entrusted with an appreciation of empirical data regarding the cost-effectiveness of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The Swiss federal law on health insurance stipulates that all medical benefits and services have to be efficient, adequate and cost- effective. The Canton of Zurich started a pilot project in 2008 by entrusting a Medical Board with the task of developing a model for assessing efficiency and cost effectiveness of the therapeutic procedures that are eligible for insurance coverage. The implementation of a permanent institution is currently a matter of debate. Participants included representatives from the relevant national institutions from France, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands; key stakeholders such as patients’ organizations, practitioners, the pharmaceutical and insurance industries as well as scholars from the fields of ethics, law, health, economics and medicine. WHO staff from the Department of Ethics, Equity, Trade and Human Rights (ETH) made significant contributions emphasizing the importance of health technology assessment in the global health context as well as the central concerns around equity. Lively discussion and excellent presentations made the workshop a great success. A report of the workshop is soon to be completed.