Bioethics Blogs

Singapore Case Notes: In the Community, Who is Ethics Education For?

For previous posts on the Singapore Casebook project, a collaboration among the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore, The Hastings Center, and the Ethox Centre at the University of Oxford, see here and here .The first edition of this public, web-based casebook, “Making Difficult Decisions with Patients and Families,” was published in 2014. The second edition, “Care Transitions in Aging Societies,” will be published in 2017.

In February, our team held six workshops with Singaporean health care professionals to discuss the cases we’d developed, based on discussions during earlier visits, to illustrate common ethical challenges in the care of aging, often frail or chronically ill people in Singapore. Piloting workshops is always exciting, because we get to see what real people make of our fictional characters and situations. Do they seem “realistic” as well as “typical”?

One case is structured as a dialogue between an elderly woman determined to live independently despite deteriorating health and a case worker who is trying to figure out whether he should support his client’s choices or try to change her behavior. This case prompted participants in several workshops to ask the same question: What language are these people speaking? The characters’ names were Chinese – but would a young case worker speak the same dialect as a client who is 50 or 60 years his senior? Or should we imagine that the elderly woman had attended English schools as a child and was accustomed to speaking British-influenced English? Or did they both speak Singlish? Would the case worker call his client “ah po” (Grandma)?

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.