Tag: humanities

Bioethics Blogs

Intersectionality and the Dangers of White Empathy when Treating Black Patients

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

(Originally presented at the 7th International Health Humanities Consortium meeting in Houston, Texas)

I’ve had many odd, seemingly racially motivated experiences with racially uneducated and racially insensitive doctors and nurses. From being told by one of my white physicians that I sound white when I speak, to another physician calling me “sista girl” for what seemed like 100 times during our brief 15-minute interaction, or another physician who in disbelief kept asking me “Are you sure you’ve never been pregnant? It’s very rare for a black woman your age to not have had any pregnancies. Maybe you think I mean births, when I mean pregnancies?” At the time, I was only 25 years old. Although these stories made for good laughs between my friends and I, there is one experience that I have had with the medical profession that was less comical because my doctor’s attitudes about race could have had serious effects on my health.

When I was a senior in college I discovered I had hypertension. I went to see a doctor at a family medicine facility and was prescribed a common hypertension drug. While meeting with the doctor in her office, she was very reassuring and told me not to worry that this drug has been known to work very well for black people.

But this drug did not work for me at all. Consistently my blood pressure readings were 140/120 (what is considered “normal” varies but typically 120/80 is the standard). So after taking the drug for a month as instructed, I went back to see my doctor.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Ethics of the Trump Budget: The Social Contract is Dead

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

President Trump released his blueprint for a 2018 federal budget. From an ethical standpoint, the President seems to operates from a Hobbesian standpoint—life is nasty, brutish and short. However, unlike Hobbes who believed that we came together to protect ourselves from this reality, the new budget seems to encourage this idea. The new budget makes deep cuts to all social and scientific programs while boosting the military. In Hobbesian terms, Trumps’ social contract is all about bullying outsiders while leaving insiders in a state of hopeless diffidence.

Since World War II, the United States has invested heavily in science and technology, developing transportation, and building a better world (and winning wars). Since the 1960s, the US has provided a safety net for the poor, support for the arts, and public broadcasting. Since 1970, the U.S. has worked to ensure that people have the opportunity for flourishing by protecting the environment, providing financial aid for college, and strengthening our relationships with international partners—peace through diplomacy.

The 2018 budget undoes 80 years of social progress and support. The new budget defunds the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and most development agencies. Also eliminated are environmental management, research and education; after school programs, clean energy, chemical safety, community services and development, national service programs, clean air, home investment programs, energy assistance programs for low income adults, minority business development, science education, support for the homeless, and peace.

In addition, the budget significantly reduces funding for science (medicine, basic research, NASA, climate science), health care, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, Departments of Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Housing & Urban Development, Transportation and Interior.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

7th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference

The Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Workgroup and the WMU Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine Program in Medical Ethics, Humanities & Law is proud to announce the 7th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference


September 14-15, 2017

Kalamazoo, Michigan


Overview:  Proponents of medical humanities contend that the humanistic dimensions of medicine and health are a critical component of those disciplines; not only do these dimensions help us to understand the very nature of medicine and health, their apprehension allows caregivers to relate to their patients, to treat those patients with respect and dignity, and to provide more holistic and empathetic care. 



The 7th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference is committed to the creative, dynamic, interdisciplinary explorations of the range of themes within the broad theme of medical humanities. This highly interdisciplinary conference draws participants from a wide range of backgrounds, including those from academic, creative, and medical communities.



Keynotes: This year’s conference Keynote speakers will be Dr. Jay Baruch and Professor Katie Watson.



AbstractsAbstracts will be considered in the following categories:

  • Oral Presentations: 20 minute presentations by one or two authors
  • Panel discussions: 60 minute presentations by a panel of speakers (generally 3-5). Panel discussions are expected to be interdisciplinary and explore a single topic from multiple perspectives.
  • Workshops: 60-90 minute presentations with a focus on audience interaction and the creation of some artwork. Previous successful workshops have included mentored drawing, poetry writing, performance dance, etc.
  • Posters/Visual Arts: Displays of visual arts, and performances (including dance, musical, theatre, etc.)

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.

Bioethics Blogs

#SoComplicatedSyllabus – Check it out and please contribute! by Deborah Levine

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject…Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” said Donald J. Trump on Monday, February 27, at a press conference. This was his answer to a question about the then-seemingly stalled, but as of now reinvigorated, plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health care law that is—both derisively and affectionately, depending on your political affiliations—known as Obamacare.

Pundits and journalists weighed in quickly with snarky jokes; it seemed they couldn’t help themselves. “Nobody? Nobody! Of course, everybody knows that health care reform is complicated,” said Jordan Weissman at Slate.com. On Twitter, thousands tried their hands at memes and quips, many of which paired pictures of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders laughing next to Donald Trump’s quote. Others remarked that they themselves must be “nobodies,” since they knew well that health care was complicated.

Perhaps unintentionally, the President actually made a really important point. If you aren’t someone who spends much time thinking about or studying the U.S. health care system, it can be stunning just how complex every aspect of the system is. I trained as a historian of medicine, and I teach undergraduate courses on the workings of the American health care system in a policy program. My students are continually surprised by the contradictory inequalities and complexities of our so-called “system.” In the fall of 2015, after participating at a conference with an international audience of scholars in Dublin, Ireland, the overarching question I got over dinner, from a highly educated audience of peer academics, was one of incredulous dismay, and amounted to: Is this really how the health care system in the US works?

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.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals: February 2017 by Christine Sargent

American Ethnologist

Good ramps, bad ramps: Centralized design standards and disability access in urban Russian infrastructure

Cassandra Hartblay

Accessible design seeks to reconfigure the social by restructuring the material. As the idea moves globally, it becomes entwined in local logics of moral obligations between citizens and the state. Wheelchair users in the city of Petrozavodsk, in northwestern Russia, talk about inaccessible infrastructure as being embedded in moral relationships. In their stories, hierarchies of expertise diffuse responsibility for outcomes and devalue user knowledge. When accessible design elements are installed to meet minimum standards, they are “just for the check mark” and often do not “work.” Wheelchair ramps produce value for businesses or governments by representing an idea of access that circulates as a commodity. Failed accessible design draws attention to a moral field governing the responsibilities of actors to produce a “good” built environment, imbricated in teleologies of progress. [disability, design, infrastructure, access, ramps, postsocialism, Russia]

Self-governance, psychotherapy, and the subject of managed care: Internal Family Systems therapy and the multiple self in a US eating-disorders treatment center

Rebecca J. Lester

“The self” has seen a surprising resurgence in recent anthropological theorizing, revitalizing interest in whether and how it can be studied ethnographically. These issues are brought to the fore by a newly popular psychotherapy technique, Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS), as practiced in a US eating-disorders clinic. There, clinicians and clients negotiate tensions between this model’s understanding of a multiple, refracted self and managed-care companies’ insistence on personal responsibility. In considering the moral and pragmatic work of IFS in the clinic, a new critical anthropology of selfhood illuminates the vectors through which economic and political commitments become imbricated in the self.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

When Neuroethicists Become Labmates

By Timothy Brown and Margaret Thompson

Timothy Brown is a doctoral student and research assistant at the University of Washington (UW). He works with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering’s (CSNE) Neuroethics Trust, where he explores the broader moral and societal implications of neural engineering and neural technology use. Through the CSNE’s support, he is also embedded in the UW’s BioRobotics Lab, where he investigates issues of autonomy and agency that arise for people with motor disorders who use next-generation, neurally-controlled deep-brain stimulators to manage their symptoms. 


Margaret Thompson is a doctoral student in the BioRobotics Laboratory in the Electrical Engineering department at University of Washington, Seattle; she is also president of the Student Leadership Council at the CSNE. She received her Master’s in Electrical Engineering from University of Washington in 2016 and her Bachelor’s in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College in 2014. She researches side-effect mitigation methods for deep brain stimulation, as well as how human subjects learn to use brain-computer interfaces over months to years at a time. 


Maggie Thompson and Tim Brown are graduate students at the University of Washington—Maggie studies electrical engineering, and Tim studies philosophy (in particular, neuroethics). They are both members of the Biorobotics Laboratory—a multidisciplinary lab investigating the interface between human bodies and machines. Tim serves as the lab’s “embedded ethicist” through the support of the 
Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE).


Together, Maggie and Tim work on projects related to deep brain stimulators (or DBS, where electrodes implanted in key areas of the brain apply enough current to treat various disorders) and brain computer interfaces (or BCI, where changes in the brain are read by sensors and used to control a computer system).

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.

Bioethics Blogs

ASBH Call for Proposals Closes March 3

Submit your proposals for the American Society for Bioethics + Humanities (ASBH) 19th Annual Meeting, October 19-22, 2017, in Kansas City, Missouri.  The call closes March 3.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Bioethics and the Problem of Silent Neutrality in the age of Trump

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

One of the most contentious of all issues in bioethics has been whether as a profession, we should take a stand against issues. Arguments have raged on both sides of the issue. The American Society for Bioethics & Humanities (ASBH) only takes stands on issues of academic freedom. The thinking, as I’ve seen it, is that bioethics has something to offer all political perspectives and by not taking stands on issues, we are more likely to help further conversations among people on  all parts of the political spectrum.

This stance has been tested: When as a nation we learned that torture was regularly being practice by our military some took offense, but only Steven Miles spoke out and resigned from the organization for not taking a stand. Bioethics in general has been criticized for its lack of participation in social justice issues. In Observing Bioethics, Renee Fox and Judith Swazey criticize the bioethical enterprise for this unwillingness to take a stand.

So are there extraordinary times and issues when we as a group should stand up either individually or en masse?

I have been personally struggling with how to respond to the mass upheaval currently taking place in the United States. Plans to re-open Guantanamo Bay, CIA black sites, and torture are violations of human rights and human decency. For example, banning refugees from our shores, keeping people from returning to their jobs/homes/families; even forcing residents at US hospitals to leave the country after returning from trips abroad. Also consider efforts to silence government scientists, health care providers in other countries receiving US aid, and the diplomatic corp.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Medicine and the Holocaust in Medical Education: International Holocaust Remembrance Day – January 27

By Hedy S. Wald

“Medicine was used for villainous ends during the Holocaust.  The Holocaust was an enormous trauma inflicted on human dignity and the human person; medicine was implicated in crimes against humanity.”  His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston.1

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 in 2005 after a special session marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust. In the words of Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon (2008), “The International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is a day on which we must reassert our commitment to human rights… We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history.  We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world.”2

Indeed.  A recent medical humanities article (co-authored with my colleagues Drs. Rubenfeld and Fins)1 was a resounding call for teaching lessons of the Holocaust within medical education.  We joined others in the medical education/bioethics community calling for a curriculum that would create space for a mix of reflective practice and historical awareness to grapple with the medical profession’s central role in “using science to help legitimize persecution, murder and ultimately genocide.”3

“Almost every aspect of contemporary medical ethics is influenced by the history of physician involvement in the Holocaust,” Wynia and colleagues wrote.1  The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” exhibit3 documents the moral failures of individual physicians and the medical establishment during the Third Reich including participation in horrific experimentation and medicalized genocide. 

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Now Accepting Applications: Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education

The 2016 Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholars

The application period for scholarships to attend Fordham University’s intensive three-day interdisciplinary ethics graduate course is now open! The course, or workshop, will be held May 23 – 25, 2017 at Fordham University, New York City, USA!

The Fordham/Santander Universities International Student Scholarship in Ethics Education provides direct financial support for international students who wish to pursue graduate-level study in Fordham University’s Master’s in Ethics and Society program.

Students who apply to the program through the scholarship complete the workshop titled, “CEED 6100: Theories and Applications in Contemporary Ethics” which is designed to provide cross-disciplinary perspectives on moral theory and applied ethics. Using a team-teaching approach, this course brings together faculty from at least six different disciplines to integrate foundational knowledge about moral theory from the humanities and sciences with contemporary applications and social issues.

The scholarship covers:

  • Tuition: The cost of tuition for the graduate courses and administrative fees.
  • Travel: Applicants may request funding for travel to New York City Applications should include estimates of costs, including the source for the estimate (e.g., airline website, travel agency).
  • Lodging: As part of the scholarship, housing may be provided to funded students at one of Fordham’s graduate student housing facilities.

Applications for are due March 15, 2017.

2016 Workshop Papers from Santander Scholars

Cheryl Chin: “An exploration of how healthcare clinicians have become constrained into behaving inhumanely in the context of modern healthcare and what can be done to remedy this trend”

Cornelius Ewuoso: “Institutional Norms, Moral Values and Patient’s Cultural/Religious Preferences: Overcoming Moral Distress in Physician-Patient Relationship”

Agata Ferretti: “Should there be a reproductive global market?

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.