Bioethics Blogs

Students and Professors Pay Tribute to John D. Arras

Most of us can easily remember a favorite course that we took in college, but it is much more difficult to recall one lecture that occurred on a single morning or afternoon. Unless, of course, something remarkable happened during that lecture.

Of the handful that I can recall, Professor John D. Arras gave one of them.

As a sophomore at the University of Virginia, I sat waiting in a large nondescript hall for a meeting of Professor Jim Childress’ course, “Theology, Ethics, and Medicine.” Our class learned that we would be hearing from a guest lecturer on whether there was a right to health care.

Enter Professor Arras.

He walked up to the podium and adjusted the overhead projector settings for his presentation. Pleasantly surprised by the ease with which he had been able to manipulate the unfamiliar technological set-up, he gave a thumbs up to the audience of students, smiled, and said affirmatively, “Bitchin’.”

The hall erupted with laughter. Our guest had endeared himself to about 100 undergraduates, not an easy crowd to win over. He gracefully reeled our giggling class back in and segued to a talk on the implications of a right to health care. He asked us to consider this idea from four different perspectives of political philosophy – libertarianism, utilitarianism, liberal egalitarianism, and communitarianism. If, in fact, we could agree that a right to access health care existed, the challenge, he said, was to tackle a second (more daunting) question: what was the content of such a right – how limited was it?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.