About the Institute

Tasks and Objectives

The Institute provides a platform for scientific research and theory in the field of medical law, public health law and bioethics. The Institute's objective is to conduct integrant and interdisciplinary research and to discuss the range of medical and public health law problems by:

  • providing the professional and organizational requirements for integrant and interdisciplinary research projects
  • working out experts´ opinions and comments on problems of medical and public health law as well as in the field of bioethics, particularly on legislative initiatives and on other national or international regulation projects
  • training the new generation of legal scientists in learning integrant perspectives and in preparing for professions in medical and public health service
  • organizing national and international conferences
  • professionally co-operating with institutions of medical and public health law service and with institutions of national and international biomedical research
  • transforming scientific findings into practice
  • informing the public about the latest research results in periodical publications
  • building up and maintaining a scientific library


Two Universities - a joint Institute

The Institute for German, European and International Medical Law, Public Health Law and Bioethics (IMGB) was established jointly by the Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg and the University of Mannheim in October 1998.

The Institute is managed by a board of directors formed by professors of both universities, comprising Prof. Dr. Jochen Taupitz as managing director as well as Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Thomas Hillenkamp, Prof. Dr. Peter Axer, Prof. Dr. Gerhard Dannecker, Prof. Dr. Lothar Kuhlen, and Prof. Dr. Ralf Müller-Terpitz. Thus, related to both universities, the Institute can rely on the expertise of excellent scientists from two law faculties. Connected to two universities, based on law faculties each focusing on specialized fields, comprising civil law as well as public law and criminal law, the Institute is the first of its kind in Germany. Supporting the work of the Institute by specific visual angles and enabling interdisciplinary research in such a scope, could certainly not be achieved by only one university and only one faculty of law. In particular worth mentioning is the co-operation with the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg, especially with the Institute for Forensic Medicine and the Institute for History of Medicine, with the faculty of National Economics of the University of Mannheim, for instance concerning questions of public health law, and with the Faculty of Business Administration of the University of Mannheim, concerning for example the topic of hospital management, as well as with the Faculties of Philosophy of both universities.

The Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg

The Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg, founded in 1386, whose worldwide degree of fame was mainly set in the field of the arts and jurisprudence as well as in the field of medicine, is Germany's oldest University. In addition to its established faculties it is due to nine special fields of research and research institutions like the German Cancer Research Centre, that the University of Heidelberg belongs to the representatives of the most innovative potentials among national and international universities.

The University of Mannheim

Academic life in Mannheim has its roots in the founding of the Palatinate Academy of Sciences in 1763 by elector Karl Theodor. The University of Mannheim emerged in 1967 from the Business College which was founded by the city.

Compared to other German universities, it is relatively small whereby the faculties of law and economics are dominating. The studies are determined by the university's intense international relationships. The various exchange programs, particularly those of the law faculty, guarantee an international composition of the students and the researchers and lecturers in Mannheim.

Fields of Research

Medical Law

Like in numerous other countries, questions concerning medical law have increased considerably in Germany during the last years. Topics of medical law are of an enormous social presence and of political explosiveness - e.g. the regulation of questions concerning organ transplantation, human genetics, reproductive medicine, euthanasia or safeguarding patients´ rights. Without exception, legal problems related to these questions raise wide public attention and are subject of controversial discussions.

According to the fact that in more and more medical sectors legal aspects are continuously increasing and that the complexity of the relevant law is continuously widening, the importance of medical law as an autonomous discipline grows.

So far, forensic medicine, which traditionally was connected to medical faculties, has been dealing with specific questions concerning medical law, especially the law of the medical profession. The new challenge is now generally adopted by the discipline of medical law. It deals with all the regulations which directly or indirectly concern medical practice.

In addition to the already mentioned sectors, for instance there is to be mentioned the law of contract, tort law including the physician's duty to inform and of care, criminal law or the law concerning care and custody. At the same time medical law deals with the general working, conditions, social aspects, taxation and insurance in the medical profession. Last but not least the international dimension, which is gaining significance, is to be considered.

Public Health Law

With the term "Public Health Law" the Institute consciously refers to public health as a field of research which has taken a firm place within the Anglo-American law system.

As well as medical law, this discipline picks up current and controversial questions, set in the centre of socio-political and legal interest, like the discussion concerning legal implements for curbing the costs of the public health system or like the law of health insurance and of medicine. Public health law deals with the legal and social frame conditions of the public health system, with public-law protection of health, as well as with averting specifically health related dangers, for example by the law concerning epidemics.

Central fields of public health law are formed by hospital law, the law of non-medical practitioners and the medical assisting professions, the law of medicine, medical instruments and products, pharmaceutical law, as well as public (compulsory) and private health insurance law. Especially in the field of public health service and health care support a close co-operation of the involved legal disciplines of civil law, criminal law and public law is necessary. This is illustrated for instance by the fact that approximately 95 % of the population are insured by the public (compulsory) health insurance. Thus the relation between physician and patient, which is determined by private law, is influenced to an enormous extent by social insurance law. Due to economic and political instructions which have to be considered, an interdisciplinary exchange proves to be inevitable.


During the past years the public has increasingly become aware of ethical questions of bioscience and especially of medical research. Every further progress and every new discovery in biomedical research demonstrates that legal questions of the medical system and the health system cannot be answered without considering the ethical dimension. The cloned sheep "Dolly" may serve as an example as well as the "Erlanger Baby" and the discussion about high-technology medicine euthanasia, in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood. Moreover, human genetics is one of the central topics of biomedicine and therewith of bioethics.

The science of bioethics intends to find answers to those questions, arising from the application of bioethical discoveries on human beings, as well as on animals, plants and on the environment. The term "bioethics" shows the combination of both, bioscience and ethics. Medical ethics, which evaluates medical therapy and research and their implements on the human being, forms a significant part of bioethics.

Bioethics is based on the interdisciplinary dialogue between natural science and the arts. It is just this dialogue which has to be encouraged where the law seeks to equalize the wide gap between the unlimited potential of technology (the technically feasible) on the one hand and the basic ethical principles of society (the morally justifiable) on the other hand.

Integrative research and science

The Institute's integrant research approach is based on linking medical law, public health law and bioethics, comprising the involved scientific disciplines. The view beyond the own "border line" additionally determines the Institute's work from the perspective of the internal view within these fields of research.

The exploration of the Institute's fields of interest as well as transforming research results into practice demands an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and the co-operation with experts from different fields of science and practice. For instance, the dialogue between medical law and medical science is necessary in order to ensure that law progresses with a steady feedback of the professional circumstances and results in medical science. The same applies to the field of biosciences. Moreover, various questions concerning health law cannot be answered without integrating the sociological and economic background. In Germany medical law hitherto has been considered almost solely within the limits of the traditional juridical fields of civil law, public law and criminal law. But this partial view is not able to deal with the numerous factual issues of medical and public health law, maybe because the respective regulation task concerns different classical fields of law, or because it cannot be exactly assigned to one of these fields. Moreover, the splitting hinders comprehensive scientific approaches. Therefore an integration of the various disciplines is necessary.
Modern problems of medical and public-health law demand an intensive co-operation of specialist representatives of private law, public law especially considering constitutional law and social insurance law as well as criminal law. The traditional limits of the legal profession have to be overcome without replacing their specific expertise.

The Institute of Medical Law meets with this demand by co-ordinating the co-operation of scientists from different disciplines on an institutional basis and by encouraging the interdisciplinary exchange between science and teaching to take place.

This is also reflected in the composition of the board of directors: the Institute is managed by excellent representatives of the named traditional disciplines and therewith combines science and teaching of the varying legal fields.

Against this background the Institute wants to be a reliable address, qualified to give comprehensive and problem-oriented answers to medical and health law questions and not only to provide partial information.

At the same time this means that the teaching has to impart new perspectives to the new generation of lawyers in order to prepare them for the respective practical professions in legislation, administration of justice, management, trade and industry, public health system or in federations. An ever increasing number of lawyers, who are not only provided with an interdisciplinary perspective but additionally with a legal expertise of medical and public health law, is not only required in judiciary and attorney ship but as well in health ministries, the medical associations, the professional associations and insurances, in clinic administration, ethics commissions, arbitration commission and expert commissions.

National and International Cooperation

The Institute for German, European and International Medical Law, Public Health Law and Bioethics will co-operate with those institutions and research facilities which are engaged in these fields as well. This competent co-operation with the institutions of medical law and the public health system and with national and international biomedical research enhances the transfer of knowledge and the exchange of views and the transformation of scientific findings into practice. In Baden-Württemberg a co-operation with the Centre for Ethics in the Sciences at the University of Tübingen and the Centre for Ethics and Law in the field of Medicine at the University of Freiburg has already been planned and will be manifested by formal co-operative agreements. The development of joint projects in mutual responsibility is intended. Additionally the Institute welcomes the co-operation with other institutions. The Institute's work consciously is embedded within the biotechnological environment of the Rhein-Neckar area. The cooperation with institutions and companies of the bio-area Rhein-Neckar, focusing on genetic methods, genetic research and bio-informatics, is a firm component of the concept. The Institute will give independent impulses to this topic of international attention and on the other side will meet the expectations of practice-oriented research.

International network of cooperation in the field of Medical Law, Public Health Law and Bioethics

The international network of co-operation in the field of medical law, public health law and bioethics shall support the qualified co-operation of those researchers and institutions, which are occupied with questions concerning medical law, health law and bioethics.

The network particularly aims at supporting the international exchange of information and experiences. The involved researchers and institutions are available for mutual support and consultation, especially with regard to questions concerning the prevailing national law.

The scientific exchange shall also be supported by participating in national and international projects. The extent of the co-operation is measured by the possibilities of the partners involved. The participation in the network is not bound to certain commitments (particularly not financial ones).

The network is organized by the Institute for German, European and International Medical Law, Public Health Law and Bioethics of the Universities of Heidelberg and Mannheim; The Institute will decide about admitting partners into the network.

International Medical Law and Public Health Law

The topical questions of modern medicine do not only preoccupy the national legislator; it is rather the importance of international regulations that is put in the centre of attention.Due to the increasing globalisation, socio-political and economic consequences of medical progress are of an international dimension. Scientific and medical research causes an alteration of the environment with a lasting effect that will concern all states. On the one hand technological and scientific progress allows an improvement of everybody's environment and living conditions. On the other hand the global question arises as to which extent the use of scientific freedom could endanger our future - especially with regard to the economic competition for instance in the internationally severe contest for the pharmaceutical market. Considering this development, the attempts which aim at laying down ethical and legal minimum standards concerning the application of biological and medical discoveries and possibilities for human safety in an internationally binding way, gain importance. The Institute for Medical Law will critically observe and support the international regulation initiatives and will appreciate them. In this context, it is as well occupied with legal systems of other countries and with comparative studies of jurisprudence in the field of medical and public health law.

European Medical and Public Health Law

According to the progressing European integration, the importance of a European health policy is growing. The Treaty of Amsterdam concerning the alteration of the Treaty of the European Union contains a revised version of the regulations on the competence of the European Union in the public health system. This forms the basis of an increasing control mechanism in health policy within the EU. With every strengthening of the EU health competence, common health policy gains a new quality. Health is increasingly becoming a European subject.The European harmonization and integration initiatives will have a lasting effect on the national health systems. Even now the steps taken by the European Community show perceptible implications on the national health system. The Institute for Medical Law academically will go into the implications of the European Union on the field of medical and public health law. The work of the Institute aims at watching critically the development and competence of the European Union in the field of the health and social services, as well as being involved in the creative and developing process. The task is to work towards the realization of a high European health protection standard. In addition the medical, socio-political and economic ties of health protection on a European level shall be investigated.