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Prof. M.H.N. (Maartje) Schermer

Professor in Philosophy of Medicine

  • Department
  • Medical Ethics, Philosophy and History of Medicine
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Since I studied both medicine and philosophy, I am very happy that I am able to combine these fields in my current work. 

Philosophy is a discipline that helps us to see things from different perspectives; it helps us to think in nuanced ways about the complex issues that we confront in current medical research and practice. Ethics, as a sub-discipline of philosophy, helps us to map, organise and analyse various moral arguments pertaining to moral questions or dilemmas that new technologies raise.

My research focusses on ethical and philosophical questions in medical research, practice and policy. For example: how do our notions of health and disease change due to new medical technologies? Is it always a good thing to detect diseases in a very early stage - also if there is no treatment available? How can we make use of digital technologies in Healthcare, without risking privicay and confidentiality, and without loosing 'the human touch'? What is a fair and just way to distribute very expensive treatments among patients?


Field(s) of expertise

  • Bioethics: ethics of new and emerging technologies (biotech and digital)
  • Ethics of screening & early diagnostics
  • Philosophy of medicine, especially theories of health and disease

Education and career


  • 2019- Professor Philosophy of Medicine
  • 2012-2019 Professor Philosophy of Medicine and Human enhancement(by special appointment), Erasmus MC
  • 2003-2012 Assistant/associate professor medical ethics, Erasmus MC
  • 2001-2003 post-doc researcher Wageningen UR and University of Amsterdam
  • 2001-2003 policy advisor Council for Public Health and Healthcare



  • PhD in medical ethics: 'The different faces of autonomy. Patient autonomy in ethical theory and medical practice' UvA 2001
  • MD degree, University of Amsterdam, 1995, cum laude
  • MA Philosophy, University of Amsterdam, 1992, cum laude



  • Snoek, A., De Haan, S., Schermer, M.H.N., Horstkötter, D. On the Significance of the Identity Debate in DBS and the Need of an Inclusive Research Agenda. A Reply to Gilbert, Viana and Ineichen. Neuroethics (2019), doi.org/10.1007/s12152-019-09411-w
  • Alblas, M, Schermer M, Vergouwe I, Bolt I. Autonomy challenges in epigenetic risk-stratified cancer screening: how can patient decision aids support informed consent? Journal of Personalized Medicine (2019)


  • Smedinga, M., Tromp, K., Schermer, M.H.N., Richard, E. Ethical Arguments Concerning the Use of Alzheimer's Disease Biomarkers in Individuals with No or Mild Cognitive Impairment: ASystematic Review and Framework for Discussion. Journal of Alzheimers Disease (2018) 66 (4), 1309-1322. doi:10.3233/jad-18063896/261=Q2
  • Schermer, M.H.N., Richard, E. On the reconceptualisation of Alzheimer’s Disease. Bioethics (2018); 1-8, DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12516 2/16=Q1
  • Soloukey, S., Prins, A.W., Haranghi, Schermer, M.H.N.Embodiment in Neuro-Engineering Endeavors: Phenomenological Considerations and Practical Implications. Neuroethics (2018), doi.org/10.1007/s12152-018-9383-68/16=Q2

  • Bunnik, E., Richard, E., Schermer, M.H.N. On the personal utility of Alzheimer’s disease-related biomarker testing in the research context. Journal of Medical Ethics (2018),dx.doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2018-1047723/16=Q1

  • Vos, I., Bolt, L.L.E., Schermer, M.H.N. Recent insights into decision-making and their implications for informed consent. Journal of Medical Ethics (2018)dx.doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2018-1048843/16=Q1

  • Ehni H-J., Kadi S., Schermer, M., Venkatapuram, S. Toward a global geroethics – gerontology and the theory of the good human life. Bioethics (2018) doi.org/10.1111/bioe.124452/16=Q1

  • Stol, Y., Asscher, E., Schermer, M.H.N. Good health checks according to the general public Expectations and Criteria A focus group study. BMC Medical Ethics, (2018)19:64 doi.org/

  • Specker, J., Focquaert, F., Sterckx, Schermer, M.H.N. Forensic practitioners’ views on stimulating moral development and moral growth in forensic psychiatric care. Neuroethics (2018)doi.org/10.1007/s12152-018-9363-x8/16=Q2


  • Stol, Y., Asscher, E., Schermer, M.H.N. What is a good health check? An interview study of health check providers' views and practices. BMC Medical ethics (2017)18:55, doi.org/10.1186/s12910-017-0213-x5/52=10%
  • Specker, J., Focquaert F., Sterckx, Schermer, MHN. Forensic practitioners’ expectations and moral views regarding neurobiological interventions in offenders with mental disorders. BioSocieties (2017) Vol. 13, 1, 304–21 19/42=Q2

  • Noordraven, E.L., Schermer, M.H.N., Blanken, P., Mulder, CL., Wierdsma, A.I. Ethical acceptability of offering financial incentives for taking antipsychotic depot medication: patients’ and clinicians’ perspectivesafter a 12-month randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry (2017) 17:313.71/142=Q2

  • Specker, J., Schermer, M. Imagining moral bioenhancement practices. Drawing inspiration from moral education, public health ethics, and forensicpsychiatry. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2017), 26 , 415–42679/84=Q4

  • Janssens, C.J.W., Bunnik, E.M., Burke, W., Schermer, M.H.N. Uninformed consent in nutrigenomic research. European Journal of Human Genetics (2017), 1–2 71/290=Q1

  • Specker, J., Schermer, M.H.N., Reiner, P.B. Public Attitudes Towards Moral Enhancement. Evidence that Means Matter Morally.Neuroethics 10; 3: 405–4178/16=Q2

  • Stol, Y.H., Schermer, M.H.N., Asscher, E.C.A. Omnipresent health checks may result in over-responsibilization. Public Health Ethics (2017) 10 (1): 35-48, doi:10.1093/phe/phw03420/52=Q2

  • Milne, R., Bunnik, E., Tromp, K., Bemelmans, S., Badger, S., Gove, D., Maman M., Schermer, M., Truyen, L., Brayne, C., Richard E.Ethical issues in the development of readiness cohorts in Alzheimer’s disease research. J Prev Alz Dis. 4(2):125-131 doi.org/10.14283/jpad.2017.5


  • Bemelmans, S.A.S.A., Tromp, K., Bunnik, E.M., Milne, R.J., Badger, S., Brayne, C., Schermer, M.H.N, Richard E. Psychological, behavioral and social effects of disclosing Alzheimer’s Disease biomarkers to research participants –a systematic review. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy (2016) 8:46 , DOI 10.1186/s13195-016-0212-z 25/197=Q1
  • Stol, Y.H., Asscher, E.C.A., Schermer, M.H.N. Reasons to participate or not to participate in cardiovascular health checks: a review of the literature. Public Health Ethics (2016) 9 (3):301-311 17/51=Q2


  • Focquaert, F., Schermer, M. Moral enhancement: Do means matter morally? Neuroethics 8 (2015) 2: 139-5110.1007/s12152-015-9230-y18/50=Q2

  • Bunnik, E.M., Janssens, A.C.J.W., Schermer, M.H.N.Personal Utility in Genomic Testing: Is There Such a Thing? Journal of Medical Ethics. 41 (2015): 322-326doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-101887


  • Bunnik, E.M., Janssens, A.C.J.W., Schermer, MHN. Informed Consent in Direct-to-Consumer Personal Genome Testing: The Outline of a Model between Specific and GenericConsent. Bioethics. 2014;28(7):343-5111/50=Q1
  • Bunnik, E.M., Schermer, M.H.N., Janssens, A.C.J.W. Naming and Framing in Genomic Testing. Trends in Molecular Medicine. 2014; 20(2):63-5 18/291=top 10%

  • Raus, K., Focquaert, F., Schermer, M., Specker, J., Sterckx, S. On Defining Moral Enhancement: A Clarificatory Taxonomy. Neuroethics. 2014; 7(3):263-7318/50=Q2

  • Schermer, M. The Cyborg-Fear: How Conceptual Dualisms Shape Our Self-Understanding. AJOB Neuroscience. 2014;5(4):56-7

  • Specker, J., Foquaert, F., Raus, K., Sterckx, S., Schermer, M. The ethical desirability of moral bioenhancement: a review of reasons BMC Medical Ethics. 2014;15(1): 67-5/50=top 10%

  • Asscher, E.C.A., Schermer, M. Wish-fulfilling medicine in practice: the opinions and arguments of lay-people. Journal of Medical Ethics 2014;40(12):837-41doi:10.1136/medethics-2013-1014804/50=top 10%


  • Schermer, M. Health, happiness and human enhancement – dealing with unexpected effects of Deep Brain Stimulation. Neuroethics, (2013)6:435–445 doi 10.1007/s12152-011-9097-518/50=Q2
  • Forlini, C., Hall, W., Maxwell, B., Outram, S.M., Repantis, D., Schermer, M., Racine, E. Navigating the enhancement landscape. Ethical issues in research on cognitive enhancers for healthy individuals. EMBO reports 2013 doi: 10.1038/embor.2012.225 26/291=top 10%

  • Bunnik, E.M., Janssen, A.C.J.W., Schermer, M.H.N. A tiered-layered-staged model for informed consent in personal genome testing European Journal of Human Genetics (2013) doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2012.23738/265=Q1

  • Kouwenhoven, P.S.C. et al. Opinions of health care professionals and the public after eight years of euthanasia legislation in the Netherlands: a mixedmethods approach. Palliative Medicine (2013), Doi: 10.1177/026921631244850719/86=Q1


  • Bunnik, E.M., Janssen, A.C.J.W., Schermer, M.H.N. A tiered-layered-staged model for informed consent in personal genome testing European Journal of Human Genetics (2013) doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2012.237 38/265=Q1

  • Bunniks, E.M., Schermer, M.H.N., Janssen, A.C.J.W. The role of disease characteristics in the ethical debate on personal genome testing. BMC Medical Genomics (2012) 5:444/165=Q


  • Bunnik, E.M., Schermer, M.H.N., Janssen, A.C.J.W. Personal genome testing: test characteristics to clarify the discourse on social, ethical and legal issues. BMC Medical Ethics(2011) 12:115/50=top 10%
  • Van de Vathorst, S., Schermer, M. Additional reasons for not viewing continuous sedation as preferable alternative for physician-assisted suicide American Journalof Bioethics 11 (2011) 6: 43-441/50=top 10%
  • Schermer, M. Ethical aspects of Deep Brain Stimulation. Futures in Integrative Neuroscience (2011) doi: 10.3389/fnint.2011.00017


  • Schermer, M. The mind and the machine. On the conceptual and moral implications of brain-machine interaction. Nanoethics 3 (2009): 217-230
  • Schermer, M. Telecare and self-management: opportunity to change the paradigm. Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (2009): 688-691
  • Rietjens, J., Van Tol, D., Schermer, M., Van der Heide, A. Judgement of suffering in the case of a euthanasia request in the Netherlands, Journal of Medical Ethics 35 (2009): 502-507
  • Bunnik, E., Janssens, A.C.J.W., Schermer, M. How attitudes research contributes to overoptimistic expectations of personal genome testing. American Journal of Bioethics 9(2009), 6-7:23-251/34=top 10%
  • Schermer, M. Changes in the self: the need for conceptual research next to empirical research. American Journal of Bioethics 9 (2009), 5:45-47 1/34=top 10%
  • Schermer, M., Bolt, I., De Jongh, R., Olivier, B. The future of psychopharmacological enhancements: ethics and policies. Neuroethics 2 (2009), 2: 75-87
  • Schermer, M., Bolt, I. Introduction. Neuroethics 2 (2009), 2: 61-62
  • Bolt, I., Schermer, M. Psychopharmaceutical enhancers: enhancing identity? Neuroethics 2 (2009), 2:103-111


  • Schermer, M. Genomics, obesity, and enhancement: moral issues regarding aesthetics and health. Genomics, Society and Policy 4 (2008),2:36-52
  • De Jongh, R., Bolt, I., Schermer, M., Olivier, B. Botox for the brain: Enhancement of cognition, mood and pro-social behavior and the blunting of unwanted memories.Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 32 (2008), 4: 760-776
  • Schermer, M. Enhancement, easy shortcuts, and the richness of human activities. Bioethics 22 (2008), 7: 355-363
  • Schermer, M. On the argument that enhancement is cheating. Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (2008), 2: 85-88


  • Schermer, M. The dynamics of the treatment-enhancement distinction: ADHD as a case study. Philosophica 79 (2007), 25-37
  • Schermer, M. Brave New World versus Island. Utopian and dystopian views on psychopharmacology. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 10(2007), 2: 119-128
  • Schermer, M. Nothing but the truth? On truth and deception in dementia care. Bioethics 21(2007), 1:13-22


  • Kalis, A., Schermer, M., Van Delden, J.J.M. Ideals regarding a good life for nursing home residents with dementia: views of professional caregivers, Nursing Ethics 12(2005),1: 30-42


  • Kalis, A., Van Delden, J.J.M., Schermer, M. ‘The good life’ for demented persons living in nursing homes, International Psychogeriatrics 16 (2004), 4: 429-439
  • Keulartz, J., Schermer, M., Korthals, M., Swiestra, T.Ethics in technological culture: a programmatic proposal for a pragmatist approach, Science, Technology and Human Values 29(2004), 1: 3-293
  • Keulartz, J., Schermer, M., Korthals, M., Swierstra, T.Pragmatism in progress: a reply, Techné: Research in philosophy and technology 7 (2004), 3: 38-48


  • Schermer, M., Keulartz, J.Pragmatism as a research program – A reply to Arras. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 24 (2003):19-29
  • Schermer, M.In search of ‘the good life’ for demented elderly. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy vol 6 (2003), 1: 35-45

Teaching activities

  • Lectures and work-groups throughout the medical curriculum (Ba)
  • Ethics-clubs (MA)
  • Double degree with philosophy (Ba)
  • oordinator Master-research Ethics & philosophy
  • Various post-graduate courses

Other positions

  • Chair of the standing committee on Ethics and Law of the Health Council of the Netherlands
  • Chair of the Centre for Ethics and Health (CEG)
  • Various (ethics) advisory boards (e.g. Aesculab, Prodemos, NWO-veni, ISVW)

Scholarships, grants, and awards

Most recent grant (july 2019):

NWO open competition Social Science and Humanities (€750.000): 'Health and disease as practical concepts - a pragmatist approach to the conceptualization of health and disease'

External Profile Page



Societal outreach

Contributing to public discussion about the ethical implications of new and emerging medical technologies is very important to me. Therefore, I frequently give public lectures o take part in public debates or media. For an updates list see http://www.maartjeschermer.nl/