Published: 25-09-2012 00:00 | Updated: 17-06-2014 10:53

Karolinska Institutet's Ethics Prize awarded to Kerstin Hagenfeldt

Kerstin Hagenfeldt, emerita professor of gynaecology and obstetrics, receives the 2012 Karolinska Institutet Ethics Prize for her tireless efforts to integrate ethics as a subject into the medical programme.

Through her work at KI as chair of the programme committee for the medical programme and as professor of gynaecology and obstetrics, Em. Professor Hagenfeldt has made a significant contribution to the introduction and establishment of ethics at KI as both an education and research discipline.

"Kerstin Hagenfeldt is a pioneer in this field," says Niels Lynöe, professor of medical ethics and chair of Karolinska Institutet's Ethics Council. "In the early 1980s, there was hardly any mention of ethics at all in the programme. Today, there's a professorship and two senior lectureships in the subject, and that's largely down to her."

Em. Professor Hagenfeldt studied medicine at Karolinska Institutet back in the 1950s, specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology and took her PhD in 1972. She then went on to work as a consultant and clinical teacher/senior lecturer at Karolinska Hospital's women's clinic until the turn of the millennium.

"As a gynaecologist I was often confronted with ethical questions about things like abortion and infertility, so my interest in ethics was there from the start," she says.

Ethics training for teachers began in the mid-1980s with a voluntary 10-credit point course in medical ethics, very much thanks to the diligent efforts of Em. Professor Hagenfeldt.

"I thought it was absolutely essential for prospective doctors and other careworkers to be given training in the ethical concerns that they'd meet later in their professional lives. Instruction is needed to be able to deal effectively with particular issues, such as treatment refusal, abortion, suicide and assisted suicide," she says.

Em. Professor Hagenfeldt has also influenced the development of medical ethics at a national and global level. As part of the WHO's research, development and training programme in human reproduction, for example, she helped to introduce the ethical assessment of grant applications and ethical guidelines for research.