The Center’s annual medical ethics conference was the inspiration for this 1-unit Practicing Medical Ethics course, offered each semester to Notre Dame undergraduate students. Because the Practicing Medical Ethics course is only a one-day event, whereas the Conference is a three-day event, students focus on three of the issues discussed at the conference.
It is our hope that this sample of the complex field of medical ethics will encourage students to pursue these issues – and other issues in medical ethics – in greater depth.
The spring course, offered on April 14th, was divided into three main sessions:
Session I: The “Pillow Angel” Case. In the past year, much attention in the media has been given to the case of Ashley, otherwise known as the “Pillow Angel.” Her parents pursued several treatments in order to make Ashley, who is severely mentally and physically disabled, more comfortable and so that they could better care for her.
Session II: Seriously Ill Infants. Much debate around the world surrounds how we should care for seriously ill infants, particularly those who are fated to die shortly after birth, and what their moral status is. In this session, students discussed the permissibility of infant euthanasia, early induction, palliative care, and life support for infants not for their own benefit, but so their organs can be harvested.
Session III: Mandatory Vaccination and Testing. Mandatory HPV vaccination became a controversial issue earlier this year when Texas governor Rick Perry introduced an executive order requiring HPV vaccination for all girls entering the sixth grade. In this session, students discussed this and other similar cases concerning mandatory vaccination and testing and issues of public health.
We are forever indebted to the generosity of Dr. Paul Wright, a cardiologist from Youngstown, Ohio, for graciously funding this course. Additionally, we are grateful to the alumni physicians and faculty members who so generously gave of their time to teach this course: Dr. Mark Lindenmeyer, a lawyer and hospital administrator in the Cincinnati area; Rev. Jim Foster, CSC, MD, director of the Preprofessional Studies Department at Notre Dame; Dr. Tom Murphy, a clinical endocrinologist, and his wife, Dr. Laura David, an OB/GYN, both professors at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio; Kevin McDonnell, the Edna and George McMahon Chair in Philosophy at Saint Mary’s College; Rudy Navari, Director of the Walther Cancer Research Center at the Notre Dame; Paul McCauley, who runs a free clinic in Maryland; Keri Oxley, a Notre Dame graduate and current medical student at Yale University; and Center director David Solomon.