The Second International Bioethics Conference “Ethical and Legal Issues of Emerging Biomedical Sciences and Research” commenced at Sultan Qaboos University on Sunday, 2 February 2020 under the patronage of HE Sheikh Abdallah bin Mohammed Al Salmi, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs. The conference is organized by the National Bioethics Committee in cooperation with Sultan Qaboos University and UNESCO. This three-day event seeks to address contemporary and emerging challenges related to legislations that govern and relate to existing and emerging bioethical issues. The topics included will cover the interlinked relationship between bioethics and legislations, advances in medicine and biology, issues at the beginning and end of life, and issues related to medical practice. In addition, the conference will explore how regulatory measures beyond legislation can aid to advance the aims and objectives of bioethics and legislations, especially with the rapidly changing fields of science and medicine.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, HE Dr. Ali bin Saud Al Bimani, the Vice Chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University, and Chairman of National Bioethics Committee said that the committee seeks to formulate a clear path to deal with ethically contentious medical issues in the spirit of the tolerance of Sharia and the developments of modern science. “The committee has many national responsibilities, including the holding of conferences, seminars and training programs for professionals in the field. We hope that this international conference that will discuss legislations governing bioethics would enhance the exchange of knowledge and experience, training opportunities, and research activities between ethics professionals locally, regionally and internationally”, he said.
Dafna Feinholz, Chief of Section, Bioethics and Ethics of Science, Sector for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, lauded the efforts of Oman, which has been collaborating with UNESCO for organizing various events related to bioethics in the region including the hosting of the working groups of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC). She noted that artificial intelligence (AI) and its ethical concern is a rapidly emerging issue at the global level. “While AI has the potential to transform the future of humanity for the better and in favor of sustainable development, there is also a prevailing awareness of the risks and challenges association with AI, especially in terms of deepening existing inequalities and divides as well as the human rights implications. AI could be a strong and useful assistance for medical diagnosis and treatments. However, ethical issues such as protection of sensitive data and privacy, accountability and responsibility of AI-assisted decisions and data bias in Algorithms especially gender bias need to be carefully addressed. Another disruptive technology, namely genome editing also gives an enormous hope for providing treatment for genetic diseases but at the same time, concern of infringing human dignity and human rights requires careful consideration”, Feinholz said.
Sheikh Dr. Kahlan Nabhan Al Kharusi, Assistant Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman and Deputy Chairman of the National Bioethics Committee, gave the keynote on “Ethical and Legal Issues of Emerging Biomedical Science and Research: Islamic Perspective”. Dr. Mohammed Ali Albar, Director of Medical Ethics Center, International Medical Center, Jeddah, KSA, was honored for his service and scientific contributions in the field of bioethics. Mr. Ahmed Sumait Al-Badawi from National Bioethics Committee said that the scientific committee of the conference received 204 scientific papers covering five themes of the conference out of which 36 papers have been accepted.