Monday, March 22, 2004

19th Annual Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference

The 19th Annual Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, which from its inception has been directed by Center Director David Solomon, was held March 19-21, 2004 at Notre Dame's Center for Continuing Education. Bringing together a prestigious line-up of philosophers, theologians and legal scholars with a core group of Notre Dame students and alumni working in the field of health care, the conference explored a variety of issues ranging from the Terri Schindler Schiavo feeding-tube case in Florida to the complexities of recent attempts at Medicare reform.

Among the conference highlights was the annual J. Philip Clarke Family Lecture on Medical Ethics, delivered on Friday afternoon by Ruiping Fan, BM, PhD, professor of philosophy at the City University of Hong Kong. Fan's lecture was entitled, Beyond Liberty and Equality: Some Confucian Reflections on the Place of the Family in Healthcare. In his lecture, Fan looked to expose certain limitations in liberal notions of individual autonomy and equality of opportunity as a prelude to a defense of a Confucian notion of the autonomy of the family. The most important moral values, Fan argued, are not individual liberty as self determination or equality of opportunity, but rather the virtues for preserving and promoting bonds for human flourishing, especially in the family.

On Saturday afternoon, Mark Rust, Notre Dame alumnus and a member of the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, delivered another plenary address, taking the conference audience with remarkable clarity through the difficulties and implications of the Medicare reform bill passed in the fall of 2003.

The core of the conference, as always, consisted in small-group discussion of case studies, studies provided by members of the conference audience. This year's discussions focused on various topics of current concern to health care practitioners. The Terri Schindler Schiavo case, taken up on Friday afternoon, raised the thorny issue of the morality of withdrawing artificial means of providing nutrition and hydration. The results of the small-group discussions were then highlighted in plenary discussion with a panel consisting of Fr. James Bresnahan, Joseph Incandela and Gilbert Meilander.

The conference banquet on Saturday evening was a festive affair, with the customary entertainment provided by the Notre Dame Glee Club. The conference concluded with a final session on Sunday morning, where a potpourri of issues were taken up in open discussion by the conference audience, in conjunction with a panel consisting of John Robinson, Margaret Monahan Hogan, Jorge Garcia, Mark Siegler, David Solomon and Tris Engelhardt.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Twentieth Annual Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference

This spring, the Center and Notre Dame Alumni Continuing Education once again held our annual Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, but this year, in honor of the conference’s twentieth anniversary, we departed from our usual South Bend locale and convened in London, England. The conference dates were March 5-13, 2004, with the academic portion held on March 10-12, while the preceding five days gave participants the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company while touring the United Kingdom.

With all the good that has come out of this conference, its twentieth anniversary was indeed an occasion to celebrate. Over the past twenty years, hundreds of physicians, students and scholars have taken a weekend to consider and reconsider ethical issues relevant to medical practice. This conference has helped many find their vocations in medicine, fostered many friendships, and given alumni yet another reason to return to their beloved Notre Dame.

This year’s location proved to be a draw for many of our regular conference attendees as well as a number of new participants, with an approximate total of fifty physicians, students and others interested in health-care ethics attending from the United States, Europe and even Australia.

The physicians and resource people, along with their family members in attendance, enjoyed everything London had to offer: they took in theatre and symphony performances; traveled to Stonehenge, Greenwich and Canterbury; toured museums of art and history; and took walking tours of the city. And even while the physicians and students attended the academic part of the conference, their spouses and children were treated to a delightful tour of Oxford University, led by David Solomon’s wife Mary Lou Solomon. The academic part of the conference was held at Notre Dame’s beautiful London Centre, located just off Trafalgar Square. Participants found that the conference was enhanced by the overseas setting, which lent itself to fruitful and enlightening conversation about the differences between American and European approaches to health care.

The Philip and Doris Clarke Family Lecture, given by Prof. John Haldane, reflected upon differences in the philosophies of Americans and Europeans, which form the basis of their differing approaches to health-care ethics. To help clarify his point, he highlighted the issue of euthanasia, which is a common practice in some European countries but has been much more contested in North America.

This year’s conference format allowed for a period of explication by a panel of experts in ethics, followed by small-group break-out sessions, and then another plenary session to talk about the ideas and issues that came up in the small-group discussions.

It was a rewarding experience for all involved, and we look forward to seeing more fruits of the many connections and friendships made at this conference in years to come. The Center is grateful to all who attended the conference and in particular to the staff of the Notre Dame London Centre for their gracious hospitality to all the conference participants, and of course to Doris Clarke and her family for their generous support of the conference.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Visit from Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, SJ

On March 1, 2004, the Center, along with several other institutions on campus, hosted a visit by the president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, the Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J, Ph.D. Besides being president of Gonzaga, Fr. Spitzer is an accomplished philosopher and much sought-after speaker, as well as co-founder of the University Faculty for Life and the Center for Life Principles in Redmond, Washington. He is one of our nation s most compelling defenders of the pro-life cause.

On the evening of March 1, after speaking to the Holy Cross seminarians at Moreau Seminary the night before and to the pro-life student group in Notre Dame's law school that afternoon, Fr. Spitzer gave a third talk in the Hesburgh Center auditorium, entitled "Restoring the Culture: Life and the Pursuit of Happiness." The aim of the talk was to show how the healing of our cultural maladies can be achieved only by way of a fundamental critique of common misconceptions regarding human happiness. The talk was well received by a crowd of mainly Notre Dame undergraduates and members of the local community. A reception honoring Fr. Spitzer was held in the Hesburgh Center after his talk. The Center would especially like to thank Bill Schmitt of Notre Dame s Kellogg Institute for International Studies for spearheading the effort to bring Fr. Spitzer to Notre Dame.