About our Institute

The Institute for History and Ethics of Medicine focuses on the historical and cultural dimensions of medicine – the so-called „medical humanities“ – in both research and teaching. This includes the genesis and development of medical culture, fundamentals of the theory of medicine, and medical ethics.

The institute’s research activity is committed to the historical perspectivation of culturally and socially relevant questions in medicine. Some examples include the difficulty of boundaries of what is medically and technically feasible; dealing with norm and deviation in academic discourse; and malpracitice in doctors’ daily routine. A main emphasis of research at the institute is the reconstruction of ethical and epistemological traditions in the medicine and how they relate to current problematic areas.
The Munich institute conducts research in the following core areas:

1. Medicine and Philosophy
Medical esthetics from the ancient world to early modern period; norm and deviation in medical-anthropological concepts of the body and human typologies, 16th-20th centuries; forms, norms and logic in the portrayal of knowledge in early modern medicine; epistemological dimensions of mistakes and errors and how they influence action.

2. Cultural and Ethical History of Medicine
The genesis and development of medical ethics; the practice of anatomy and dissection; cultural history of blood; cultural history of the hand.

3. Forms of Transferring Knowledge
The reception of classic Hippocratism and Galenism in the Renaissance and the early modern period; the exempla tradition in medicine; strategies for vonveying medical knowledge and guidelines for doctors; secretum literature as a means of popularizing alchemic, technical and medical knowledge and related practices: Paracelsism; science between reality and fiction.

4. History of Psychiatry
The development and industrialization of criminal anthropology, 19th-20th centuries; patiens’ stories and the social history of psychiatry; the history of psychopathology; ethics in psychiatry.

5. Medicine in National Socialism and the Culture of Remembrance
The history of racial hygiene and eugenics; forced sterilization during the Nazi era and the repercussions after 1945; the history of the medical community and the professional medical associations in National Socialism; regional and European perspective of National Socialist patient killings; the German armed forces and Nazi “euthanasia”: medical research and human experiments in National Socialism; the reception of Nazi medicine in both German states and the culture of remembrance.

6. Medical Ethics
The history and ethics of assisted suicide and euthanasia from the 19th to the 21st century: the history and ethics of reproductive medicine; autonomy and the end of life; medical confidentiality; a normative perspective of the relationship between history and ethics; the slippery- slope argument.