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.

No comments: