Ethical issues about autonomy and patients' rights are central to all aspects of health provision at the turn of the millennium. Yet there are no nationwide or, still less, Europe-wide programmes to deliver cost-effective training in these crucial issues to practitioners. More limited ethics training programmes centred on issues of autonomy do exist, and this proposal builds on the expertise developed in several of them: the Institut voor Gezondheidsethiek in the Netherlands, the Akademie fur Ethik in der Medizin in Germany, the University of Turku in Finland.
Through extensive consultation with practitioners in the development of their courses, both the coordinator and its partners have developed collaborative working between higher education or research institutions, and the medical profession. The final partner in the project, the Instituto Psicoanalitico per la Ricerche Sociali (Italy) are themselves practitioners dealing with a particularly problematic and vulnerable patient group, under-age psychiatric patients.
Each of the four continental partners will host a series of workshops comparing teaching methodologies and attempting to reach a value consensus in one specific area of biomedical ethics practitioner education. There will be a total of thirteen such international workshops. The papers, case studies and discussion reports from this extensive series of meetings will form the basis for the core materials to be prepared by the coordinating partner. These core materials could be versioned separately by each European partner, taking into account the particular training needs and institutional or legal differences. Yet they would reflect a collaborative common content with an emphasis on reflective practice. The existing networks of training contacts which each partner possesses in their home country will provide a 'multiplier' effect for such materials to ensure their widespread use. The final conference of the project, will mark the creation of a European database of biomedical ethics educators working with practitioners and will explore further avenues for collaboration.