On behalf of the planning committee of the 15th World Congress of Bioethics, we invite you to join us virtually on June 19-21, 2020 to immerse yourself in three days of cutting-edge bioethics research, networking, and fun in a physically distanced but socially connected setting.

The conference theme is Autonomy and Solidarity: Bridging the Tensions.  We describe here the ways in which this timely theme weaves together important strands in bioethics and offers a major unifying thread for the virtual conference.

Reflection on the nature of autonomy and solidarity is critical in bioethics and has also recently become of increasing political importance around the world.  Recognizing these developments, our planning group has a two-fold aim for this Congress. First, as all previous Congresses, we want to showcase the best in bioethics research from both established and new scholars. Second, we want to facilitate networking and the unique exchange of ideas that emerge when people from different disciplines, cultures, mindsets, and methodological approaches engage with one another.  Needless to say, this second objective is also one shared by all previous Congresses aiming to foster inter- and transdisciplinary bioethics—but its urgency has perhaps never been greater.

At every step in planning the Congress, we were clear that solidarity must be reflected throughout the program design.  We highlight just three core elements here. To enable the widest range of participants to join us, before going live with the conference website, we raised $50,000 for bursaries for participants from low- and middle-income countries and for early career researchers. Through a novel conference support fund, we hope to allow participants who are able to contribute to show solidarity with those who need assistance to attend the conference.  For the initial in-person format, we worked closely with Penn’s International Student and Scholar Services, and established the visa buddy initiative assisted with challenges in the visa process. (These elements are no longer relevant at the time we switched to the virtual format, but hopefully will be of use to future WCB hosts.) These efforts have helped us to deeply discount the virtual registration rate to allow more colleagues from around the world to participate. The bursary funding secured will be provided to applicants who applied previously to reimburse canceled travel plans and provide them with free registration to participate in the now virtual conference.

Please browse the other sections of the website for other ways in which we aim, before and during the Congress, to practice and encourage solidarity.

We realize that you may have plenty of other priorities such as the health of your family, work, and volunteer obligations to focus.  We understand all of this, first-hand, not just from working on the new virtual format.  But we’d also put this in consideration: Your colleagues, especially junior researchers, need you. We provide a range of feedback and networking opportunities, and your interaction is as valuable, if not more, than in an in-person setting. Your fees, likewise, help colleagues from around the world to engage with the global bioethics community. The technological hurdle is very similar to submitting your abstract in the first place. You can do it. It helps others, and it will be fun—wherever you are.

We hope that you will help us make the 2020 World Congress a success by participating and meeting global colleagues in this new virtual format!



Jonathan D. Moreno, Co-Chair

Harald Schmidt, Co-Chair


World Congress of Bioethics (WCB)

The International Association of Bioethics (IAB) awarded the 15th World Congress of Bioethics (WCB) to the University of Pennsylvania, taking place June 19-21, 2020. The WCB aims to be truly international, linking all those working in bioethics and related fields, facilitating mutual contact, and encouraging the discussion of cross-cultural aspects in bioethics. Past Congresses have been held in Bangalore (2018), Edinburgh (2016), Mexico City (2014), Rotterdam (2012), Singapore (2010), Croatia (2008), China (2006), Australia (2004), Brazil (2002), the United Kingdom (2000), Japan (1998), the United States of America (1996), Argentina (1994), and Amsterdam (1992).


International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB)

The International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB) is a network of activists and scholars working in the field of feminist bioethics and is affiliated with the International Association of Bioethics (IAB). The FAB is the IAB’s largest sub-network. The FAB pre-conference convenes a 1-day meeting virtually immediately prior to the WCB on June 18, 2020. The final event of FAB 2020 will be a plenary session run jointly with IAB 2020.

Virtual Proceedings

On behalf of the 2020 World Congress of Bioethics Planning Committee and the International Association of Bioethics, we are pleased to inform you that the Congress is moving to a virtual platform over the original meeting dates of June 19-21, 2020 and being proceeded by the FAB pre-conference on June 18, 2020.


Please see the separate Format page on how the virtual meeting works, which combines live and pre-recorded sessions with a range of ways of interacting before, during, and 90 days after the Congress.


Autonomy and Solidarity: Bridging the Tensions

From the inception of bioethics, debates within bioethics have been focused on—some might say, obsessed with— defining the scope and limitations of individual freedom, typically within the rubric of autonomy.  The concept remains central. But recent decades have broadened the overall focus of debate in two important ways.


First, bioethics has expanded beyond clinical and medical ethics to public health ethics.  That is, in addition to individual-centered issues arising in medical practice or research, scholars have considered the population-level. They have addressed what individuals are owed—and what they owe—in contexts such as healthcare resource allocation, preparing for and responding to pandemics, or enabling healthy living and work environments.


Second, in parallel to economic globalization and a world brought closer together through the internet, there has been broader debate about how to respond to dramatic differences in life expectancy and quality of life across countries.  News and social media inform us about the consequences of poor health policy or research practices, natural disasters, or political turmoil occurring thousands of miles away. International governance structures seek to assist those in need, and many of the world’s more privileged individuals support those worse off outside of these formal arrangements—but the persistent inequality remains shocking.


The concept of solidarity cuts across both recent trends in bioethics, revealing the limitations of a bioethics narrowly focused on individual autonomy.  Solidarity with vulnerable and non-vulnerable groups enables autonomy at the local and global level. But its exact meaning, including what obligations people have to act in a solidaristic way, remains far from clear.


This conference, as all previous World Congresses, is open to the diverse conceptual and methodological approaches as well as disparate fields of inquiry that bioethics comprises.  We nonetheless hope that a major unifying theme that will run through the conference will be new perspectives on the boundaries of solidarity with those we identify with—or should identify with—as equally deserving of assistance, rights or respect.



There are four formats available on-demand: individual papers, posters, symposia, and workshops.

All types are organized in 10 tracks: 

1) Clinical and health care ethics

2) Research ethics

3) Public health ethics

4) Ethics of new technologies

5) Environmental and non-human animal ethics

6) Justice, human rights, law, health policy

7) Underrepresented minorities: emerging issues

8) Philosophy, history, religion studies

9) Arts and ethics

10) Other topics in bioethics



May 18, 2020      Speaker Reaffirmation of Presentation Due
June 1, 2020     Presentation Upload and Recordings Due
June 1, 2020      Final Date for Presenters to Register
June 16, 2020       Virtual Platform & Mobile App Launches



WCB is awarding 18 regional prizes for the highest scoring abstracts from the following regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Australia/Oceania. Six prizes each are available in the following three categories:


Mark S. Ehrenreich Prize – Papers Awards


Medard Hilhorst Prize – Posters Awards


Early Career Researcher Prize, sponsored by the Wellcome Trust – Any Format


All abstracts meeting the review criteria will be eligible for consideration of the available prizes.  Your presentation affirmation must be received by May 18 to be considered.


WCB 2020 Planning Committee
University of Pennsylvania Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Ezekiel Emanuel
Vice Provost for Global Initiatives


Chris Feudtner
Affiliated Faculty


Steve Joffe
Interim Chair, Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy


Jonathan D. Moreno
Primary Faculty, WCB Co-Chair


Harald Schmidt
Primary Faculty, WCB Co-Chair


Pamela Sankar
Primary Faculty


Connie Ulrich 
Affiliated Faculty

Medical Ethics and Health Policy Staff

Amy Ashbridge
Director of Fiscal Operations


Angela Golub
Executive assistant to Zeke Emanuel


Mary Pham
Administrative Coordinator


Emily Walters
Assistant to Steven Joffe, M.D., MPH

WCB 2020 International Advisory Committee

Pamela Andanda, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sunita Bandewar, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, and FMES’ Health, Ethics, and Law Institute, India
Mohamed Salah Ben Ammar, Health of Tunisia, Tunisia
Alena Buyx, Technical University Munich, Germany
Alex Capron, University of Southern California, United States of America
Sarah Chan, Mason Institute, Scotland
Dafna Feinholz, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
Samia Hurst-Majno, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Florencia Luna, FLACSO Argentina, Argentina
John McMillan, University of Otago, New Zealand
Signe Mezinska, University of Latvia, Latvia
Laura Palazzani, Lumsa University, Italy
Vardit Ravitsky, University of Montreal, Canada
Annette Rid, National Institutes of Health, United States of America
Andreas Reis, World Health Organization, Switzerland
Carla Saenz,
Pan American Health Organization, United States of America
Delia M. Sánchez Varela, University of the Republic, Uruguay
Michael Selgelid, Monash University, Australia
Nayha Sethi, Mason Institute, Scotland
Daniel Strech, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
Anta Tal-Dia, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal
Henk ten Have, Duquesne University, Netherlands
Renzong Qiu, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
Calvin Wai-Loon Ho, National University of Singapore, Singapore 

Frequently Asked Questions

For questions about how the virtual format works, please click here. For all other FAQs see below or contact the Conference Management Team at 


What if I previously registered for the Congress?

Existing registrants received an email from about their registration payment and new options for the virtual conference. Participants who registered prior to the virtual relaunch may select one of the following options: adjustment to current registration pricing and refund of the difference in cost, maintain existing registration payment and receive a code to invite one colleague to participate (a two for one deal), maintain existing registration payment and donate the difference in costs to WCB to put toward bursary applicant registration, or request a full refund. If you did not receive this communication, please reach out to our Conference Management Team (at ) for more information.


I have made a donation to the colleague support fund?

Thank you for your support!  Donations to the colleague support are still welcome.  As before, they help to a) discount fees for colleagues from low- and middle-income countries, which is still needed in the virtual format, and b) to assist with bursaries.  On the latter, while bursary applicants no longer incur cost associated with attending in-person, we have refunded for all confirmed and waitlisted bursary applicants all reasonable and documented costs associated with attending the in-person conference that was incurred before the announcement of the switch (such as visa cost, or cancellation fees). All remaining funds will be used to cover the registration fees for all eligible (as opposed to those selected via the priority scores combined with lottery) bursary applicants. Note that any possible surplus will not be kept by Penn but be passed on to the IAB for future WCBs.


I have not yet registered: should I register now?

Details about the new format can be found by clicking here and the virtual conference registration rates are now published.


The website says that the early bird ends March 30: should I still register?

Registration is currently closed and will reopen the week of May 6. Email  to join the mailing list. 


I have received a bursary: what happens now?

The planning committee will be providing new guidance to bursary recipients and will work to reimburse reasonable expenses incurred prior to the announcement of the switch to the virtual format that cannot be canceled or refunded. Proper documentation and receipts are required for WCB to issue a reimbursement. Please email  if you have not yet heard from us about this, or have further specific questions.


Does the new virtual format change anything about Prizes?

All prizes will be awarded as planned, and there will be a ceremony on each day of the conference for paper, poster, and early career researcher prizes. To be considered for a prize, it is essential to confirm your participation by May 18, 2020.


Online video conferencing can be problematic, and connection can vary – how are you planning to negate this? 

We all have shared this pain at one point or another. And the fact that people will now join the WCB across the globe, with wifi and download speeds varying widely across and within countries, creates further challenges. However, there are several ways in which we can work around commonly encountered frustrating experiences.  The responses are in roughly equal parts to do with the choice of technology, adequate programming and support, and being clear about capabilities and expectations. We are working to provide the best experience possible based on the circumstances we are all now facing. Please see the Format section for the virtual conference for more detail.