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Electives - Humanities and Ethics in Medicine

New Frontiers in Clinical Ethics and Law

Elective Number: (Oasis E18) 3529

Rotation Supervisors: Donna Chen, MD & Richard Bonnie LLB

Coordinator: Carrie Gumm (cg2b@virginia.edu) 5th floor Barringer room 5380

Duration: 2 weeks

Available: ** not offered CLASS OF 2019**

Time to Report: 1st meeting for medical students will be at 9am on Day 1 at SOM Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities; interprofessional seminar meets 5:50-7:50pm at the Law School.

Place to Report: Law School or Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities

Attendance: Attendance at elective activities is mandatory.

  • Anyone who is ill or has a personal or family emergency must contact Student Affairs and the Attending on Service.
  • Students are allowed to take off up to 1 day per week to interview between November 1 and February 1.
    • Specific days missed must be approved by the Attending on Service.

Number of students per rotation: Min 5/ Max 10

Course Description: This intensive interdisciplinary seminar brings medical students and law students together for two-weeks each spring to explore ethical and legal challenges created by the array of stakeholders who affect, and are affected by, our complex healthcare system and our nation's changing healthcare environment. Through multidisciplinary readings and in-depth discussions across disciplinary boundaries, students will learn how other professionals think and will jointly assess challenges facing tomorrow's healthcare system, exploring various resources available to address these challenges and propose solutions.

Due to Professor Chen & Bonnie's schedules this year, the seminar will meet from 5:50-7:50pm at the Law School. We are currently scheduled to meet Monday - Friday the first week and Monday - Thursday the second week, but we will not use all of those days. There will also be a meeting or two JUST FOR MEDICAL STUDENTS in the Center for Biomedical Ethics & Humanities at the Medical School. There will be seminar preparation and self-directed learning activities in-between seminar meetings. Students will write a series of short reaction papers & participate in group discussions.

Specific topics covered will vary from year to year. In general, we address topical issues at the frontier of clinical care, law, and ethics – some new and others with deep roots that continue to remain at the frontier.

Questions we have addressed in previous years include:

• Defining death has always been controversial, should we give individuals more say over when they should be considered “dead?”

• To what extent should legislatures decide the proper scope of medical practice, displacing the judgment of the profession or of individual practitioners – as exemplified by recent policies affecting physician-assisted suicide?

• In the push for evidence-based decision-making, clinical trials using “sham surgery” arms are becoming more common – do the benefits of having information derived from such experiments outweigh the risks of the surgery to the individuals participating in the experiments?

• As the population ages and dementia becomes more prevalent, how much weight should be given to choices and preferences expressed by individuals regarding their health care or research participation before they lost their capacity to make these decisions?

• Research aimed at understanding and treating memory disorders implicates fundamental notions of personal identity (e.g., we have the ability to “erase” and “implant” memories—but, who are we if not a collection of our good and bad memories?) and cognitive enhancement (e.g., should physicians prescribe medications that enhance cognition to individuals who do not have a cognitive disorder, but just want that edge?).

• And, finally, who gets to decide how we move forward in these areas? Who should be accountable to whom? And, what do the answers say about the future of medicine as a profession?

Course Objectives:
By the end of this short course, students will be able to:

1. Critically analyze topical issues at the frontier of clinical care, law, policy, and ethics;

2. Discuss norms and ideas across disciplinary boundaries and learn how other professionals think;

3. Reflect critically and creatively on the current status of the medical profession in society, the ethical challenges created by the complex array of stakeholders who affect, and are affected by, the healthcare system, and the professional values worth carrying forward into tomorrow’s healthcare and legal systems.

4. Create interdisciplinary ways of communicating important concepts and practices to the general public and to policy makers.