Bioethics Symposium

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The Practical Clinical Ethics symposium was held by Dr. Michael Gillette on Tuesday, September 17th.

The symposium seemed to be for the purpose of informing professors and students about a new, profitable direction that philosophy majors could decide to pursue. Bioethics is a currently growing field within the medical community, and as insurance becomes more wide-spread, it will become significantly more important. Radford University is considering adding a bioethics program for future students.

The symposium discussed some of the ethical dilemmas inherent within the medical community, particularly in cases where a persistent vegetative state is a factor. As Dr. Gillette stated, “All decisions need to be based on how you can defend them.” Do parents have the right to make decisions for a vegetative daughter who the doctor believes will almost certainly never recover? When does a doctor’s professional opinion supersede the right of the parent to make medical decisions for their child?

He used a legal method to determine this.

According to him, the only way a parent can be denied the right to make medical decisions for their child is if they are abusive or negligent towards that aforementioned child. If the doctor can prove that providing the care would be inconsistent with their care standards, they can refuse to treat the patient in question, though they do have to allow 14 days for a transfer. Though a doctor may believe the treatment may be futile or reduce the patient’s quality of life, they do not have the power to refuse treatment because of that judgment if they would otherwise give that treatment to someone else.

In the case of abuse or neglect, that doctor must provide proof to the courts that states that the family in question has abused those rights, and thus that it is legally the court’s duty to remove those rights from the parents in question. The state is otherwise obligated to give next-of-kin absolute power to make medical decisions in the case of neglect or abuse.

What’s interesting about the bioethics symposium is that it proves that philosophy has a place in today’s world. Though Aristotle and Plato have been dead for more than two thousand years, their philosophies allow us to answer tough moral questions with some degree of protocol, and the methods they use to argue these philosophies allow us to measure the conclusions with a rhetoric that’s still applicable to the modern day.

We still need to make important decisions – even more important with the advent of modern medicine and the implications that medicine provides. For instance, I doubt there was such a thing as “brain death” back in the time of Aristotle; people such as Dr. Kevorkian wouldn’t have had a place in that society, given that death either happened or it didn’t.

These recent advents raise important questions about the duty of doctors in a society where everything, from eating to drinking to staying healthy, has become far more complicated. Dr. Gillette’s appearance at this symposium was for the implicit purpose of teaching professors and students how to create a program that trains college students to navigate the modern medical field.