Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bioethics Might Take Medical Ethics' Place

Dr. Edmund Pellegrino says that medical ethicist and bioethics should be working together for the good of patients. Dr. Pellegrino, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Medical Ethics at the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Georgetown University Medical Center, spoke at Duquesne University about medical ethics' relationship with bioethics. Medical ethics is the system of ethics that is applied to physicians and patient care, while bioethics is interdisciplinary and focus on the question that arise from bio-science.

Pellegrino says that bioethics was formed out of three main events, the first being the cultural shift that began in the 1960s away from previously trusted authority figures. He says that this distrust that happened around the time of the Watergate scandal caused the second event, a mistrust of physicians and medical ethics.

The third event was an acceptance of multiculturalism. "And that's all fine, but then again it began to confuse one cultural set of values with the right rules and this fed into the idea of individual determination. 'What's right and wrong is what I say it is, what I say it is, what I believe. And don't tell me anything different and don't argue with me."

Dr. Pellegrino stresses that instead of just accepting the values that one already has, there needs to be discourse and public examination of whether those are right or not. He says that without examination of whether things are actually beneficial to society or a patient there can be no true progress.

Pellegrino says that he sees two possible futures for bioethics. One is where bioethics take the place of Medical ethics. "No matter how highly organized we can be, not matter how technical we can be, how scientific we can be. The human condition of being will and wanting to be helped, cured if possible, at least relieved of pain and suffering will be universal. Don't leave that to this vague notion of bioethics. I'm asking you to leave it to physicians."

The second future would be one which he most likes, one where bioethics and medical ethics can work together. He says that the aim of both types needs to be figuring out how to best look at the human condition of being ill and working in the best interest of people.

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