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Duquesne University’s World Renowned Bioethicist Builds Bridges between Pittsburgh and the World

Dr. Henk ten Have, new director of the Duquesne University Center for Healthcare Ethics, recently provided training in bioethics for members of the National Bioethics Committee of the West African Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.

This is among the first bridges in the bioethics field that ten Have will build between Duquesne and locations around the globe. A physician and philosopher with an international reputation, ten Have most recently served as director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Sector for Social and Human Sciences.

Ten Have, and his work in the Côte d’Ivoire—aimed at helping the committee to develop policy recommendations, draft guidelines and provide guidance for practical cases in health care and research—was completed under the auspices of UNESCO. The recent training session was the first planned for a series of collaborations between Duquesne and the University of Bouaké.

In October, he also spent a week teaching in the master’s program of bioethics at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Science in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Côte d’Ivoire plays a leading role in the region in the area of bioethics, despite being one of the poorest countries in Africa and having a weak health care system, ten Have said.

Bioethics was introduced as a teaching discipline at the University of Bouaké in 1994. In 2002, the year that civil war ripped through this previously stable country, Côte d’Ivoire became one of the first countries in Africa to create a National Bioethics Committee. Six years later, a regional meeting of experts who teach ethics was held in Abidjan, the capital city. A UNESCO chair in bioethics—the first in the French-speaking world—

was established in Côte d’Ivoire in July 2010.

UNESCO is the only United Nations organization that can establish chairs to promote specific areas of research and teaching, ten Have explained, and, with a limited number of bioethics chairs available, this can serve as an inspiration to others in the region.

Ten Have’s appointment at Duquesne will dovetail with his goals of providing assistance to people in developing nations, especially given the University’s strategic goal of building stronger ties to Africa.

“The receptiveness at Duquesne for working on these kinds of issues is great,” ten Have said. “And we have good colleagues in philosophy and theology who can also be involved in these projects.”

Duquesne‘s Center for Healthcare Ethics, started in 1996, is part of the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts and offers interdisciplinary doctoral, master’s and certificate programs for health care professionals and scholars.

Ten Have plans to initiate research in the area of global ethics, as the call for more regulation and implementation mechanisms are increasing. For instance, he sees the amount of kidneys coming from the organ trade from Third World countries as a form of exploitation, especially because those providing kidneys feel as if they do not have other choices.

While thousands of survivors of last year’s earthquake in Haiti had arms and legs amputated because of the risk of infection in hospitals, ten Have asks, “Were they really helped?”

Ten Have sees bioethics as providing practical answers to philosophical questions, a balance of short- and long-term gains that takes cultural and religious norms of people into account.

“In bioethics, there is an interesting tension between what exactly is universal and what is local or regional. There is a common set of principles that could be applied everywhere,” ten Have explained. “It doesn’t mean that you have the same approach everywhere.”

Besides assisting people in developing nations, ten Have also intends to continue his research, which has focused on two areas: palliative care and end-of-life issues, including euthanasia, and new technologies, such as genetics and nanotechnology.

Ten Have, who received both of his doctorates from Leiden University, The Netherlands, has a long list of publications to his credit and has held numerous academic and administrative positions at European universities.

After living in Paris, ten Have and his wife, Nancy, are residing in Pittsburgh.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.