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Medical Ethics, Philosophy and History of Medicine

We aim to contribute to ‘good healthcare’ in the broadest sense. We do research, teach on all levels, support health-care workers in the Erasmus MC and are involved in national and international (ethics) advisory boards.

About our department

Our research

Our interdisciplinary research focuses on health care, in its widest sense. We anticipate on new technologies (e.g. e-health, CRISPR-CAS, big data, NIPT), we pay attention to daily practices in health care (e.g. new screening methods, the demand for euthanasia, shared decision making), and to social issues such as equitable access to health care. Our research is focused on three main topics:

● Technological developments in medicine from a humanities perspective (Prof Maartje Schermer, dr Timo Bolt)

● (In)justices and inequalities in health care (Prof Maartje Schermer, dr Timo Bolt)

● Clinical ethics & research ethics (Prof S. van de Vathorst, dr E. Kompanje)

Principal Investigators

Research Lines

Technological developments from a medical humanities perspective 

(Prof Maartje Schermer, dr Timo Bolt)
New technologies pose new questions, and often lead to emotional responses, from hope to fear and repulse. Will artificial intelligence lead to dehumanization or will it improve care? Will gene-editing result in more health, or in eugenics? Are we all becoming patients and is our mobile phone a surveillance instrument? We investigate these hopes and fears from a historical, philosophical and ethical perspective. The aim is to formulate well considered recommendations for the acceptable use of these technologies.


(In)justices and inequalities in health care

(Prof Maartje Schermer, dr Timo Bolt)
Inequalities in health between groups exist, and our research investigates whether (and why) these inequalities are unjust. We currently focus on inequalities between groups of pregnant women, and inequalities in the access to expensive new treatments (e.g. new drugs).


Clinical ethics & research ethics

(Prof S. van de Vathorst, dr E. Kompanje)
Whether or not to stop treatment, how to recognize overtreatment, when is treatment medically futile, how to deal with patients who demand treatment or who refuse treatment; the daily practice of health care is riddled with ethical questions. We support health care workers in their decision making by doing research into these ethical questions, and by supporting them in their decision making through moral deliberation.


Research with human subjects is supported through our membership of the METC and the CCMO, by teaching various courses on research integrity, and by research into research ethics.



Technological developments in medicine from a humanities perspective

Risk prediction, screening, early diagnostics in ethical and historical perspective

  • IDM-screen scale: a ZonMW project on informed decision making in cancer screening (with VUmc and RIVM, 2019-2022, PI: dr. Ineke Bolt).
  • EPAD: an IMI project on early prevention of Alzheimer’s disease – ethics workpackage. (2016-2020, PI: prof.dr. Maartje Schermer).
  • Epigeomewise: ethical legal and societal issues of new assays for DNA-methylation in cancer screening. (NWO-MVI, 2018-2020, PI: dr. Ineke Bolt).
  • FORCEE: a EU project on epigenetic cancer screening – ethics workpackage. (PI: prof.dr. I. de Beaufort).
  • Ethical issues in non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) (ZonMw. November 2015 – spring 2020, PI: dr. Eline Bunnik).


Effects of new technologies on health care and medical research

  • Accountability in post-World War II health care systems (Descartes Centre/Wellcome Trust, 2019-2022, PI: dr. Noortje Jacobs).
  • Public gatekeepers of authoritative science (ZonMW/Descartes Centre, 2019-2020, PI: dr. Noortje Jacobs).
  • Health and disease as practical concepts: a pragmatist approach to the conceptualization of health and disease (NWO open competition, 2020-2024, PI: prof.dr. Maartje Schermer).
  • Ethical and Legal issues of Personalised Medicine (ELSI-PM) (ZonMw program Personalised Medicine 2018 –2020: PI: dr. Eline Bunnik).


Health inequalities in a diverse society

  • Forensisc psychiatry (NIFP/Pieter Baan Centrum, 2018-2020, PI: dr. Timo Bolt). 
  • Deinstitutionalization of mental health care (GGZ Nederland/Stichting Leerstoel Geschiedenis van de Psychiatrie, 2019-2020,PI: dr. Timo Bolt).
  • Studying the History of Health in Port Cities (NWO-funded European SHiP-network, 2017-2020, PI: dr. Floor Haalboom).
  • Environmental history of food, globalization, and health (Rachel Carson Center, 2019-2020, PI: dr. Floor Haalboom). 
  • Ethical access and reimbursement models for expensive new cancer treatments. (KWF project, 2020-2024 PI: dr. Eline Bunnik).
  • Improving the health agency of vulnerable mothers-to-be: taking empowerment seriously. (ZonMw, november 2019- november nov 2022, PI: dr. Hafez Ismaili M'hamdi).  
  • A loyalty program to motivate vulnerable women to engage in preconception care, (sept 2018- sept 2021, PI: dr. Hafez Ismaili M'hamdi).
  • Ethics of chaining to an individualized prognosis based guideline on the limits of neonatal viability, (jan 2020- jan 2024, joint PI: dr. Hafez Ismaili M'hamdi).





We offer support for moral case deliberation for clinical departments. More info will follow.
If you want do request this support get in touch with the secretariat:

Telephone: 47062






The Netherlands: 

Radboud UMC, dept. Neurology, dr E. Richard.

Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and Humanities, Utrecht University: Link to website

Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Dutch Journal of Medicine): Link to website

Trefpunt voor Medische Geschiedenis in Nederland: Link to website



Institut für Ethik und Geschichte der Medizin, Tübingen:Link to website

McGill University Quebec, The Center for Genomics and Policy (CGP).

Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, University of München: Link to website

SHiP-network: Link to website



BSc & MSc students

New technologies and societal developments and changing views on health care and its professionals pose new questions and raise issues we never had to consider before. Things as they stand developed this way, but could have developed in another way. What were important contributing ideas, facts, decisions? What happens mostly is not always what is right. What is the law is not always the right thing to do. How can you know what is the right thing to do?

The goal of teaching medical humaniora is to encourage students (on all levels, ie bachelor, master, PhD- post doc), from various courses (e.g. nursing, medical, clinical technology) to develop a critical view, and to teach them to use theoretical insights from different disciplines and arguments in defending their considered point of view. We thus contribute to a truly academic training.

Hafez Ismaili M Hamdi
is coordinator of our bachelor programs. Contact him if you want to know more about our bachelor program.

Hannie Aartsen is coordinator of the master programs, and of the minor health ethics. Contact her if you want to know more about our master program, or about our minor.

Maartje Schermer is coordinator of the master research program. Contact her if you are interested in doing a master-research project at our department

Timo Bolt is coordinator of all medical history teaching in our bachelor programs at Erasmus MC and UMCG.

PhD students

We offer a course on research integrity for all PhD students (Suzanne van de Vathorst).

Any questions?

Please contact our office if you have any questions or comments.